Risks and Harms of Spyware

As the name suggests, Spyware is a kind of malware that tries to steal sensitive information. Spyware is used to perform a myriad of functions ranging from targeted attacks against political activists by nation-states. Advanced spyware is installed on systems silently, and often disguises itself as a genuine piece of browser extension or software, a Trojan, to infect a computer. Spyware tries to steal critical information and tracks every move of a user.

How does Spyware work and harm the system?

The complexity and design of the spyware depend on the attack that it is aimed at:

  • Tracking cookies and Adware are used to track activities about the browser, such as downloads, history, and searches. This data can implant malicious ads or even sell these to a third party. Even though this category can apply to all malicious software, it also includes browser extensions and legitimate software that can gather user information without any consent.
  • Keyloggers are essentially software that record keystrokes that gather mundane data and sensitive information. These are used by employers to track the activities of their employees, law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal activities or threat actors that want to steal personal information such as credit card numbers, or user credentials.
  • Information stealers are a kind of spyware that can retrieve targeted data. For instance, information stealers can track which websites or applications are in use and can extract login credentials and information being typed. Information stealers can even steal media files and documents.

How can spyware affect your device?

Spyware has been known to slow down computers and smartphones. However, spyware can affect your device in several ways, some of these such as:

  • Your devices run unusually slow and lag when performing particular activities.
  • The homepage of your browser changes or extra browser extensions and software keep being installed without any user action.
  • Antimalware and antispyware programs can stop working properly.
  • A device can make connections to recognized malicious servers.
  • The microphone or camera on the device gets turned on without any user action.

Conclusion

Spyware uses the resources of the target device to record data and track all activities and eventually sends the data to the remote server that hosts the Spyware. We need to keep in mind that spyware is not fundamentally created to be efficient. If there are any errors in the malicious software itself, it causes a program or system crash, which is a significant sign of spyware.

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