Spyware: how far does privacy go?

Spyware is among us, this silent phenomenon is causing terror among people. Learn how to protect your sensitive information from malware!

Privacy is undoubtedly one of the human rights that we have, the protection of our information; as well as the free expression of information by consensus is essential to us; each person has the freedom to choose how much and what information they want to share with the world; therefore, we are the ones who take control of our privacy. But when we enter the cyberspace environment, the rules of the game tend to change. 

When we overcome the barriers of physical space, we tend to lose a little control over this privacy; the networks are designed to be as secure as possible, however; many times we ourselves are the ones who share sensitive information in a consensual way; but without realizing the real danger that this can pose. Every day we publish information on our social networks and we blindly think that this information will be safe there; but there are people who want to take advantage of this information for personal gain; so it is no wonder that social networks suffer so many attacks and hacking. So today we will see what spyware is all about, and the various considerations that surround it.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of malware that is capable of obtaining cloned information and transmitting it to a third party illegally, i.e. without the owner’s consent. In simple terms; spyware is a virus that collects copied information and transmits it to the computer in which it is hosted.

Another definition can be malicious software that attempts to silently monitor users’ procedures; track their browsing trends or steal their sensitive data, such as passwords and bank details. This collected information is normally sent to the owner of the spyware; where it is used for targeted advertising or personal gain. This is different from other malwares, such as viruses and worms; which are usually intended to spread to other systems and cause all kinds of havoc.

By reading the definitions above; we can realize the large amount of information that is sensitive to theft, and that these thefts are really common and can happen at any time. Putting this in perspective; if we imagine only the information we keep in our computers, whether it be passwords, bank data, images, documents, among other things; we can imagine the real risk that losing this information could mean, as it could well serve the criminal for his own benefit or be used against us.

How does spyware get into the system?

As spyware is a type of malware, it has different ways of entering systems, some of which may be:

  • When installing software: this most commonly happens with “Freeware” or “Shareware” type programs that tend to be downloaded for free or that are “pirated”. Many times the specification that the program to be downloaded contains spyware is set out in terms of conditions that we usually do not read, so by accepting the terms and conditions we are agreeing to have the spyware installed on our device.
  • When entering a website using cookies, java or active X controls, as these usually record our traces on the network.
  • By means of a virus that contains it: these are better known as “Trojans” and they are in charge of appearing to be some kind of advertising or valid URL, however, they hide other malware inside so that, when executed, they are released into the system.
  • Through spam emails: Many times cyber-crooks try to access sensitive information via email, sending an attachment containing the malware and using social engineering to persuade the victim to voluntarily install the malware on their computer.
  • How do we know when we have spyware installed?

There are several “symptoms” or actions that the system carries out when it identifies malware, some of which are:

  • When the browser does not follow the command it was given, but redirects the web page to another one that was not selected. These usually redirect to other Web pages that are infected or contain malicious software.
  • When unknown icons appear in the lower taskbar. When spyware is installed, an icon of unknown applications or applications that you don’t remember having installed usually appears in the lower taskbar, next to the icons for wi-fi, antivirus, volume, etc.
  • The computer tends to be slower. This usually happens when saving files or opening programs such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel.
  • Error messages from Windows usually appear. It can happen that the operating system alerts about some process that stopped working or some software that is not working well.
  • New toolbars often appear in the browser. They appear suddenly when we don’t remember or haven’t added any toolbars to our browser.
  • When new web pages appear in the favorites section or the browser home page changes on its own
  • Advertisements often appear without an apparent source. Usually these advertisements tend to match “casually” with the tastes or interests of the victims.
  • How can we attack the spyware?

There are several ways to prevent this type of malware, some of which are described below:

  • Read the terms and conditions of the products you wish to install: Although it may sound a little tedious, it is necessary to read the terms and conditions of what we wish to install, since as mentioned above, many of these spyware are specified in these terms and conditions of the software we originally wish to install, as the aim is to have the user’s consent and thus have fewer legal repercussions.
  • Install a firewall: this will prevent unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet.
  • Install an ad blocker: If you use the Chrome browser, you have the option of adding an ad blocker expansion. This helps prevent the filtering of ads that may be infected with malware on the websites you visit.
  • Spyware search programs: There are various specialized programs that scan your computer for hidden spyware. This tool can detect and eliminate spyware that may be installed on your computer.
  • Make sure to eliminate the spyware completely: at the moment in which we want to eliminate the spyware we must make sure to eliminate any trace that is found, since, in some occasions, when uninstalling the spyware only the primary characteristics of the software are eliminated and the rest of the component remains installed.

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