Data is the driving force in the modern age, and individuals, companies and various organizations will do anything to get hold of valuable data. This includes unethical ways, such as using spyware. The most sort after valuable information ranges from sensitive personal information to business secrets and deals. This information can also be used in a malicious way to propagate further attacks and breaches. In this guide, we will look in detail what is spyware, how your devices can get infected with spyware, various ways to deal with spyware, and how to avoid spyware in the future.
In a Rush? Here are 3 Quick and Easy Steps to remove spyware:
- Click here to download and install Malwarebytes for your device.
- Run a full system scan by clicking the Scan Now button. This process takes a few minutes.
- After the scan is complete, click Remove Selected to remove detected threats from your device. Sometimes a restart may be required to clean your device entirely.
- 1 In a Rush? Here are 3 Quick and Easy Steps to remove spyware:
- 2 What is spyware?
- 3 What Types of spyware are there?
- 4 How to know if your device has spyware?
- 5 How to remove spyware from your device
- 6 Best spyware removal tools
- 7 How to avoid spyware in the future
- 8 FAQ
- 9 How does spyware get into your device?
- 10 Does a system restore get rid of spyware?
- 11 Should I worry if my device does not have sensitive information?
- 12 Can I get spyware from P2P files?
What is spyware?
This is a type of malware that collects various sensitive information and sends it to its authors without your knowledge or consent. Depending on the design, spyware uses stealth to perform its operations. Confidential information it collects includes; your browsing habits and mostly personally-identifying information such as your name, your addresses, biometric data, passwords, email address, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and anything that can be linked to you.
What Types of spyware are there?
There are many types of spyware classified according to their functions and what platforms they are designed to infect. Spyware can also be other malware for various purposes. Commonly known spyware include;
- Adware – This is a type of persistent malware that usually installs itself without direct permission from the user. The primary function of this malware is to push and displays ads in the form of pop-ups, autoplay commercials, banners on your device. Adware can be spyware if it tracks your internet habits and collects information on what sites you visit or content you download. This information is then used to push enticing custom ads to your device.
- Key loggers/System Monitors – This spyware records almost all activities a user performs on a device. This usually includes all the keystrokes on a keyboard, screen captures, touch inputs, and even mouse moves. After a specified amount of data is logged, the system monitors send the data to the author. This data can be analyzed for various sensitive information including emails, usernames and passwords, and even bank details.
- Mobile Spyware – This is a particular category of spyware specifically made to track what individuals do on their mobile devices. Mobile spyware can be downloaded as standalone apps or even installed stealthily by other apps. Mobile spyware can be beneficial i.e. when tracking your kid’s activities. This type of spyware can also be devastating as they monitor, collect, and send everything you do on your phone to a specific individual. Information collected includes your messages, social media chats, location, and they can control your microphone and cameras. It is a complete breach of privacy.
- Trojan spyware – This spyware masquerades itself as something legitimate or useful. This trick is used to fool victims to getting the Trojan into their computer system. Once granted access, a Trojan creates a backdoor for other malware or cybercriminals to infiltrate the system and gather sensitive information.
- Tracking Cookies – Cookies are beneficial files that enable a smooth browsing experience. They are used to remember your login information and your browsing habits. Cookies can act as spyware when they become intrusive and start tracking and collecting details about your online activities. The collected information is then used by various third parties to bombard you with custom ads.
How to know if your device has spyware?
It is not easy to figure out if your device has spyware. This is because spyware operates in stealth mode, and cybercriminals do not make them to be easily found. However, here are some telltale signs that you can use to know if your device has spyware.
- A slow, overheating, crashing, and freezing device: Spyware uses a lot of computing resources, including RAM and CPU to carry out various operations. This might because your device to overheat and at times, crash as multiple apps try to compete for these resources occupied by spyware.
- Sudden loss of disk space: Spyware gathers a lot of information during your device’s daily use. This information is stored in your device’s storage. The more the data spyware collects, the more disk space is used.
- Increase in bandwidth usage: after collecting information for a specified period, spyware needs to send this info to its authors. This might cause a spike in your internet usage in the end.
- A spike in your phone bill: on mobile devices, spyware can send SMS to premium numbers, and use bandwidth to send gathered information. This leads to an increase in your phone’s bill.
- Endless ads and pop-ups: adware posing as spyware can be used to push unlimited customized ads, in the form of banners, video commercials, and pop-ups when you browse the internet.
How to remove spyware from your device
If your devices display the telltale signs, it is time to make sure that it is spyware and neutralize it. The best option is to use an antimalware/antispyware/antivirus software. The best-recommended antimalware software is Malwarebytes. You can also use the other antivirus software listed below. To remove spyware using Malwarebytes, proceed as follows;
- Download and launch Malwarebytes Antimalware software.
- On the Dashboard section, click the Scan now button to perform a threat scan.
- On the results that show up, select the items you want to quarantine/disable, if any.
- Click the next button to select preinstalled software you want to quarantine/disable – the detected software might be the one injecting spyware.
- Lastly, click the Quarantine button to move selected items to the quarantine section.
- If you want to get rid of the detected items, open the Quarantine section, and click the Delete button.
Last resort: Delete Spyware in Safe Mode with Networking
Some spyware variants can be resistant and hide from antimalware/antispyware/antivirus software scans. If it is a windows machine, the best way to get rid of the spyware is by deleting it in Safe Mode. Safe Mode only loads windows basic services and programs; this makes sure spyware will not be loaded and hence high chance to evade scans.
To delete spyware in Safe Mode with networking, proceed as follows.
- Shut down your computer and start it again while pressing the F8 key for ‘Advanced boot options’ menu
- Select ‘Safe Mode with Networking’ and wait for windows to boot up.
- Click the Windows logo and type ‘temporary files.’
- On the results that show up, select ‘delete temporary files’ and proceed to delete the temporary files.
- Connect to the internet, download, and install Malwarebytes.
- Do a system scan, delete detected threats, and restart the computer to boot up in normal mode.
After your device is clean, continue with the following steps;
- Change your passwords and usernames.
- Contact your financial institution to check for potentially fraudulent activity and take precautions.
Best spyware removal tools
Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, IoT
Avast is a lightweight antivirus solution that is preferred by most users. It has won various awards and undergone several tests and certifications to ensure it delivers quality performance to users. Avast offers an all in one solution for security, privacy, and performance.
Regarding security, Avast antivirus is suitable for detecting, deleting and preventing infections of viruses, spyware, worms, Trojan, rootkits, and other several types of malware. There is also a Sandbox, a feature that allows you to test files such as torrents and files from USB drives before using them. In terms of privacy, Avast offers its users a secure line VPN, a password manager, anti-track, a firewall, a secure browser and blocks phishing attempts. Avast also provides system tune-up for increased performance via its cleaner and a driver updater.
Avast is very easy to use right from installation, and it is appealing to novice users. It features a fluid intuitive interface with features organized simplistically. Main features are arranged in menu icons, which also bring out another menu when clicked. Avast sports a status button that changes color according to the status of your PC regarding infection. It is green when there is no infection and turns red when a threat is detected. Avast offers free antivirus and a premium version.
Download Avast and get rid of spyware in a quick scan.
Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Packing different offers, it is not hard to see why Bitdefender is a key player in the antivirus sphere. With services such as firewall and webcam protection, next-gen security against threats, encrypted traffic, malware removal, and secure browsing, Bitdefender sure has a lot in store for you.
Bitdefender gives you different package options, each with various features. You can subscribe to the one that suits your needs. There is no complexity in downloading or installing Bitdefender. A user-friendly interface ensures that you have easy navigation and access to the functionalities available for your package.
Bitdefender’s scan is concise and only takes a short time. Click the scan button to do a scan on your system. If your device is free of malware or security threats, a green check appears on the dashboard. Based on the task you are doing, the autopilot function lets you know the operation mode suitable for your device. The premium subscription is inclusive of a 30-day free trial.
Download Bitdefender and get rid of spyware in a quick scan.
Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Kaspersky labs is known for its excellent security and impeccable protection it offers via its antivirus packages. The antivirus products compatible with most devices and suitable for anyone – novice or an advanced user, Kaspersky got you covered. Kaspersky antivirus products have undergone various lab tests – 88 to be precise. In these tests, Kaspersky products have scored perfectly, and they have won 73 first-place awards. In a nutshell, Kaspersky products offer the recommended protection without doubt.
Kaspersky antivirus products use a machine learning antivirus engine for detections. This engine is so efficient in that it can detect zero-day threats. Kaspersky provides real-time protection for files, emails, and the web. This antivirus is suitable for protecting against malware infections such as viruses, worms Trojans among other malware. The products also offer an anti-phishing system, a VPN, a password manager, encryption functionalities, and a back-up file system. Kaspersky products sport an intuitive interface with fluid navigations. The products are easy to use, and features are easily accessible. Unlike other antivirus products, Kaspersky affects system performance a little bit, but it has longer scan times. Kaspersky premium packages offer a 30-day free trial.
Download Kaspersky and get rid of spyware in a quick scan.
How to avoid spyware in the future
Spyware is a dangerous threat to privacy and security and should be avoided at all costs. To do this, always remember to practice safe computing and proceed as follows;
- Regularly update your antimalware/antispyware/antivirus software.
- Avoid opening email attachments and clicking provided links.
- Stay away from ads.
- Make sure your device’s firewall is up and running.
- Avoid using bundled software, including freeware, shareware, and cracked software.
- Update your device’s operating system and apps and perform secure patches.
- Lastly, avoid downloading content from unofficial sources.
How does spyware get into your device?
Your device can get spyware in various ways, others by consent and others without your knowledge. Here are common ways in which spyware gets into your devices.
• Phishing and spoofing – phishing is a common method cybercriminals use to social engineer victims into downloading spyware or opening spyware laden websites. Phishing goes hand in hand with spoofing where victims are tricked into visiting a site that looks legitimate. Usually, the site is malware-laden and might even have the same domain as the site it mimics.
• Mobile spyware apps – Mobile spyware can be downloaded and installed as legitimate standalone apps or even installed stealthily by other apps.
• Software bundles – bundles such as freeware, shareware, and even in cracked software come loaded with other software that a user can install without knowing the consequences. These bundles can also host malware such as spyware that can install themselves without the user’s consent.
• Security vulnerabilities – almost every device has a bug that can be exploited using various ways, including backdoors to gain unauthorized access. Cybercriminals can install spyware using these exploits and various discovered backdoors.
Does a system restore get rid of spyware?
A system restore is the last resort for solving many desktop problems. Doing a system restore can help get rid of some malware and even variants of spyware. However, this is not the safest way to get rid of spyware especially if you use onboard system restore. Some spyware have been known to infect backup files.
Should I worry if my device does not have sensitive information?
Yes. As much as you will not have nothing to lose, your device will be a danger to other devices. If you use your device in a network environment, the spyware can propagate to other devices that have sensitive information.
Can I get spyware from P2P files?
Some P2P files especially executables may harbor spyware and other malware. If you use P2P clients, always scan the files before opening them.
Spyware is a dangerous malware that can breach your privacy and security without you even knowing. Malicious people can use information collected by spyware for further attacks such as blackmail, identity theft and perform fraudulent activities. Always practice safe computing, and in case your device is infected with spyware, follow this guide to get rid of it.