What is spyware? Spyware is a software program or hardware device that allows unofficial user to monitor and access the information on your computer. There are different kinds of software solutions and hardware devices that can be installed to monitor the computer use. The user installing the software is not required to access your computer physically and the software is installed without any information to the legal user. Legality and illegality of computer monitoring depend on the state of the user, and the context in which, the software is installed and utilized. The spyware can be intrusive and invasive and can put the user in danger. The spyware programs are often advertised as an effective way that can monitor your kids or employees. It is always preferable to get your employees to sign a “Technology Use Policy.” The policy must explain the legal use of the company’s property, maintaining online behavior and telling employees about their computer monitoring. Employers can choose a spyware package that shows an icon reminding the employees about their computers being monitored. Some of the differences and similarities between Spyware, Adware and malware areAdware- These marketing programs are hidden delivering advertising to users, profiling user’s web surfing and shopping etiquettes. It is hidden or bundled in some other program that the user downloads. Most of the computers in recent times are infected with adware; with some symptoms being advertised pop-ups and sluggish system. Malware- The program gets installed itself without the permission of the user. Some of the symptoms are worms, viruses, adware and spyware.
Types of spyware There are many types of spyware that affect a system adversely. The names and their effects are listed below: Web bugs: These are present on web pages or in email in the form of micro images and would monitor the information of the person who is accessing the webpage or email account. Keyboard loggers and tracker spyware: This spyware will record the key pressings of a system, which would give away important info like passwords, account numbers and other valuable information typed through the keyboard. Dinnerware spyware: This spyware will post illegitimate and abusive pictures from one’s computer. This is one of the most dangerous one, since it may even cause the attacked person get arrested for some cybercrime, which has been committed without his knowledge and permission. Dialer spyware: This spyware can dial different numbers from one’s system without one’s permission. This would lead to miscommunication between two persons or companies without their intervention. Browser hijack spyware: These types of spyware take the control of one’s browser and take the opportunity to use one’s name for various illegitimate purposes. This spyware can also hack accounts related to money and passwords to get access to different accounts.
Trojan spyware: This spyware will give access to the system of the attacked person to various people. This is generally spread by paying hijackers by intruders, who want to know specific details about a person’s account or information regarding a project. Profiling cookies, spyware: This spyware will keep an eye on the type of websites one is watching. Adware spyware: This spyware monitors the mails of the hacked for knowing about the type of mails one is receiving.
How does it get on my computer? Spyware are like micro organisms. They can just enter through any software or any device, if care is not taken. The common ways of getting spyware into a system are: Downloads: Spyware can get into one’s computer by downloading software, screen savers, audio, video files, torrents etc. from illegitimate sites. The malware gets attached to these files and come along with them into one’s system and start residing in the system without even the knowledge of the person owning the system. Inefficient antivirus program: If the antivirus, present in the system is incompetent and doesn’t act according to modern advancements of viruses, there is a great chance of the system getting affected in a negative way. Antivirus, which are not of reputed companies or of cheap quality may affect the system adversely. Downloading optional software: Reputed software may also sometimes ask the user to download optional software, which if downloaded, without being scanned, results in affecting the system adversely. Malware breeds malware: If once a spyware enters a system, then it becomes very hard to eradicate its multiplication. It technically adds more malware to the system or makes the existing programs go corrupt. Attaching USBs without scanning: One should be very careful while using external devices like pen drive, USB ports etc. Even though one uses them very carefully; it is not at all advisable to use them without scanning. The devices, which are used commonly in internet centers, must not be used to gather information from a personal computer. If it becomes that inevitable, CD s or DVDs must be used to take information.
How does it work and harm my PC? The negative effects of spyware are innumerable. The effects of spyware don’t just include causing harm to PC, but may stop the PC from working altogether. Some of the main effects are: System’s slow down: The system will lose its speed, once it gets affected by the spyware. The performance of the system falls down exponentially due to the entrance of spyware. Programs take very lengthy amount of times to load and the speed of internet in reduced devastatingly. It
takes its toll on the work time required to complete a task. The best proof of it is that as soon as the spyware is removed from the system, it starts working normally and the internet also gets its usual speed. Appearance of pop ups: The appearance of pop ups in the middle of a task is the most annoying effect of the presence of spyware. The spyware presence makes unexplainable pop ups to get entry on to the screen. This also gets removed if the spyware gets removed from a system. Reduction of memory: Another major disaster coming from the presence of spyware in a system is that the system’s memory gets drained gradually. Even though one doesn’t use the memory it gets disappeared and there would be no explanation for this other than the presence of malware on the system. The malware eats away large chunks of memory and once it is removed, the memory is also restored. Redundancy of files: The number of files multiples on existence of spyware, which would in turn reduce the memory space.
How spyware invades privacy? The spyware accesses the mail IDs, money accounts, and online transfers, reads mails, steals information, publishes something which has to be kept a secret like company specific details etc. To steal passwords: The main agenda of the hackers is to steal the passwords, in majority of the cases. They may be passwords of bank accounts, passwords to maid Ids, passwords to social networking sites or anything, once a password is known to the intruder, he can do anything from taking away money in accounts to posting abusive comments in social networking sites. If noticed immediately one may have a chance to stop the intruders from using the passwords, by informing the bank or to the sites to not give access to that particular account. But if the attack is unnoticed till long time, the loss may become something irreplaceable. Editing or deleting data from a system: This is one of the greatest threats that are posed to multinational companies. Everyone who holds confidential data is prone to the spyware, which would alter the data or delete it for their own benefits. Editing a company’s site information would bring unmanageable loss to a company’s reputation. Editing the quotations, mails sent by a company to another may harm both the parties irrevocably. Sometimes even a single word can make the difference which could change the fate of a project and sometimes of the company itself. Posting personal stuff: Sometimes we do not share everything publicly. There may be many reasons for it and the intrusion of spyware can make it all go public in the matter of minutes of its entry into a system and the results would be drastic. Cannot avoid advertisers from reaching: Some spyware are capable of giving the information about the websites that are visited by a particular person to the companies and it would cause a flood of advertisements to that person’s mail id. The companies would maintain a record of the type of websites one is watching and would send the related advertisements to the related person’s mail id.
How do I find out its presence? Finding out the presence of malicious software would be very easy, provided one knows the symptoms very well. The symptoms include the following: The speed of the system decreases. There would be redundant of copies of information in the system, probably with different extensions. Reduction of speed of internet. The sudden appearance of toolbars, which were not present until then. Automatic renaming is done to files. Browser crash happens suddenly. There would be changes in the system which are not made by the system’s owner like change in browser login page, home page etc. Getting direct access to mail ids without the home page prompting username and password is the sign that the system had been logged in recently. If the person owning the account is not responsible for the previous log in, then something must be wrong. Reduction in system’s memory suddenly.
Tips for prevention and removal of spyware: Usage of antivirus: Using a recommended antivirus program will reduce the entry of the malicious software into the system. The antivirus must be used to scan every external device that is attached to the system and every software or screen saver or torrent or any other foreign things that are downloaded into the system. The antivirus must be regularly updated. Even if the entry of the spyware happened, checking and removing it would become quite easy if there is an antivirus program installed in a system. Usage of Anti spyware: Installation of this software will facilitate the user with options like check and kill the spyware or to probe to that area which have spyware in them. As soon as one gets a doubt that there is spyware in the system, it is better to use this software and kill the spyware effectively. Usage of anti -adware: This will protect the system from the adware spyware and would crash the information that is being transferred to the company sites about the type of sites one is watching and one can effectively escape from the flood of advertisements. Using spyware guards: This software on installation would prevent the spyware from entering the system at all. As the saying says, prevention is better than cure. If the spyware doesn’t enter a system at all, there would be no need to clean the system up and one can avoid the problems of slow running of system, memory reduction, redundancy of files etc. Do not download from suspicious sites: downloading screen savers, torrents, software from suspicious looking sites also constitutes to increase in the entry of spyware. Saving anything which says free is also one of the reasons for accumulating spyware in a system. Some sites may say that they give genuine software belonging to a reputed company at a very cheap rate or for free sometimes. Do not at any cost believe such sites. If it's too good, then maybe it has its price.
Tips for survivor and abuse:
There are some tips that can be effectively used to stay away from spyware. Users are not required to learn any rocket science, but follow some easy stepsDo not download anything without scanning using a trusted antivirus program. Do not download anything from suspicious looking sites. Keep a copy of trusted antivirus and update is regularly. Do not accept files from strangers. Do not connect stranger’s external memory devices to the system. If it becomes inevitable thoroughly scan them before taking in data. Use CDs and DVDs while copying information from other systems rather than pen drives.