What is Spyware and Are You Being Spied on?

Spyware is secretive software that sends user information to a database. Spyware is downloaded on a computer without the user being aware. This covert download usually occurs when the victim visits a web page that forces the victim's computer to covertly download the malicious spyware program.

  • Spyware can also come secretly packaged with a program the victim voluntarily downloads.

  • Spyware can also be the entire program, secretly disguised as a safe program.

After the successful download of the spyware, the victim's data on the computer is recorded and sent to the owner of the spyware.

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Spyware Definition

Monitoring software (malware) secretly installed on a user's device.

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How Does Spyware Get on a Computer?

There are many ways spyware bypasses computer security. However, there are two very common ways:

  1. Trojan Horse- The spyware is secretly packaged with a program the victim voluntarily downloads or the entire program is, in reality, the spyware but looks like a different and innocent program.

  2. Compromised Websites- A website that secretly forces the user's computer to download the spyware.

Many phishing emails contain links to Trojan Horses or compromised websites.


How Do I Detect Spyware?

The most common indication that a computer has spyware downloaded is slower processing ability:

  • The computer is slow and freezes up a lot.

This is due to the spyware program stealing computing power to spy and send data.


How Do I Protect Myself From Spyware?

There are three good ways to fight spyware:

  1. Use reputable and up to date anti-spyware software

  2. Only download programs from trusted sources

  3. Not clicking online ads


Spyware vs Invasive Advertising

Spyware is a software program, invasive online advertising does not use secret programs on users' devices. Typically, online advertising tracks user data by their online accounts. So, if an individual is logged in on their search engine and social media, advertising organizations will be able to get an identification of that individual.

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Spyware vs Computer Virus

Spyware, such as the Pegasus spyware, does not multiply and copy its self to other computers the same way a virus does. A computer virus acts like a biological virus: it spreads on its own. However, a virus could be designed to automatically infect computers and send out data.

About the Author

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Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities.