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What is Spyware?

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | September 21, 2021
Cyber Dictionary

Spyware is simple: it’s software that spies on you. But knowing you have spyware on your device is anything but simple. This stuff is sneaky by design, running in the background, hidden from sight, or even operating in plain sight, but always collecting information and sending it back to its creator for dangerous purposes.

Spyware is generally not considered a virus because it doesn’t replicate like a computer virus. Also, where viruses may damage the device it installs onto, spyware is there to steal data. Data on you, your business, or any other digital asset or information it finds useful. It is one of the most dangerous types of malware circulating the internet.

How do I know if my device has spyware installed?

Generally, if spyware was only there to spy on you, you probably would notice it on your own. But bad actors tend to bundle spyware with other forms of malware – like trojan horses and adware, so things like your device slowing down, constant ad popups or unexpected tool bars or search boxes in your browser are a tell-tale sign that your device has been hit and likely has spyware installed. 

What can Spyware do to me?

Spyware can collect financial information such as online banking account numbers, login passwords or credit card data.  It can track your online habits and then deliver you more relevant ads. Institutions like governments can use it to collect all kinds of data on you. Spyware used by governmental institutions is also known as “policeware” or “govware”.

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What are the types of Spyware?

There are 4 commonly recognized kinds of Spyware. 

Types of Spyware

What can different types of Spyware do?

How does Spyware get on my device?

To be effective spyware has to be installed on your device without your knowledge. Common pathways to spyware include:

How Spyware works

Do mobile devices get Spyware?

Smartphones are a significant target for spyware. Creators use all of the methods mentioned above for distributing their software plus they exploit public wifi (airports, malls), wifi hotspots (cafes, libraries, businesses), porous mobile operating systems, and app stores as platforms for distributing their software.

How to protect yourself from Spyware?

The best defense against spyware, as with most malicious software, begins with user behavior and is supported with security products.

How to Detect Spyware

If you follow some simple best practices when you browse online, you’ll greatly reduce the chance of downloading any kind of malware, spyware included:

Install antivirus, anti-malware software onto your devices to help keep you safe when you connect to the internet

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