Increased numbers of IoT devices have made it super easy for hackers to carry out malicious cyber-attacks on innocent users. In fact, a spyware attack is one of the most practiced cyber sins among attackers. Further stating, when America Online and the National Cyber-Security Alliance performed a survey in the year 2004, their result showed that about 80% of Internet users had their systems affected by spyware. Moreover, 95% of these victims didn’t even grant permission to install any kind of software on their system. So, how is it possible that this spyware software got into their systems? Was it because of an email? Can spyware be installed through email?
Let’s try to figure it out.
Can spyware be installed through email?
Yes, spyware (in the form of software) can be easily installed on the victim’s computer or phone through a malicious but real-looking email.
Now, you will ask, what exactly is attached to the email.
Well, when an attacker tries to inject Spyware software into the victim’s computer through an email, he makes sure that he has ticked marked the following criteria.
- First, he will send an email to the victim’s email address in such a way that it doesn’t look fake.
- Secondly, he will make sure to attach something inside the email, i.e., a link or maybe a legitimate-looking document, which a user can’t resist and will click right away. Thus, causing a redirection to the suspicious link or direct download of the spyware software.
Finally, when a user permits installation, the spyware software will get injected into the computer.
What are the signs of spyware infection?
Not sure whether your computer or phone is affected by spyware?
Then I suggest you look out for the following signs.
Your device has gotten sluggish:
Has your device become more of a slow snail these days? If yes, then this is your first hint of the spyware attack.
Spyware is a type of malicious software, that can occupy a majority of your device’s memory in order to function properly. Thus, making your device slower than before. Spyware can also be called a memory hogger.
Your device is heating up:
Secondly, if your device is heating up like a pizza oven, then there are much higher chances that your device is infected by spyware software.
As mentioned earlier, spyware software utilizes a huge amount of memory on the device, which in turn slows down the speed and causes overheating.
A sudden spike in internet usage:
Spyware software runs on an active internet connection, and therefore if you are witnessing a sudden spike in your internet usage, then this might be a perfect sign that your device is affected by spyware.
Your browser’s homepage changes automatically:
Spyware has the capability to edit or change the administrative settings of a device so that it can make a hacker’s job much easier.
Therefore, if you ever encounter any kind of change on your browser’s default homepage, then it can be clearly said that your device is infected with spyware.
There is a weird sound coming from your device.
Are you hearing that whirring or beeping sound from your device?
Then my friend, your device is infected with spyware software.
Now you will ask, what’s with the beeping sound?
Well, when a hacker tries to spy on you through spyware software, your device resonates a beeping sound, which indicates that someone is actively listening to your conversation.
Unwanted shutdowns and restarts:
Yes, a spyware-infected device can go nuts and can randomly shut down or restart itself after a certain interval of time. Therefore, if you notice such kind of behavior, then probably your device is in danger.
There is a new hardware device:
Have you noticed a new keyboard, mouse, or connector kinda thing on the wire of your keyboard?
Then I should warn you that it might be very much possible that an abuser has connected these hardware spyware devices to your system.
So, if you see any such kind of device on your computer system, then it is better to avoid them.
The “Unknown sources” option is enabled automatically:
Today every PC and mobile device has this built-in feature called “Unknown sources,” which helps a user to block the installation of any app that does not belong to the official app store.
Although, when your device is triggered by spyware software, then this feature is switched off by the hacker so that he can easily install his other malicious software on your devices.
So, if you find out this genius feature is no longer active on your device, then you can conclude that spyware has entered the system.
You are getting numerous pop-ups:
A spyware attack can also force other types of malicious software on our devices, and a good example is the installation of adware.
So, if you ever encounter numerous ad pop-ups on your mobile or PC, then it could be a sure-sure sign of a spyware attack.
Your device freezes or crashes frequently:
If you ever encounter that your device is constantly freezing or crashing between operations even though you have a good amount of memory on your device, then it surely has spyware software installed on it.
You see unfamiliar apps & icons:
Spyware is also known as the evil virus that can permit the installation of any software without even asking for the victim’s permission.
Therefore, if you ever see any kind of unfamiliar app or icon on the taskbar or anywhere on the screen, then there is a straight possibility of your device being infected with spyware.
If you are searching something like “best hotels near me” on Google, and if it redirects you to some random website, then you can suspect your device of a spyware infection.
You have started getting random error messages when using the apps:
Have you recently started getting error messages while launching your favorite app?
If yes, then this might be because of the spyware blocking your app and stopping it from functioning properly.
How to remove spyware from your device?
After having a brief discussion on what signs a device can throw when it is infected with spyware software, we shall now move forward and see how we can remove this malicious virus from our devices.
Initiate full system scan:
The first step you might want to take after you are suspicious of a spyware attack is initiating a full system scan with the help of a trusted and powerful anti-virus or anti-spyware solution.
Doing so will help you instantly find & delete that specific file or app which has the spyware.
Remove any suspicious files/apps manually:
Secondly, you can try removing the files and apps manually from your devices. But remember, this should be only done if you know which files or apps are legitimate and which are not.
So, if you are ready to take the plunge, then you can follow the instructions given below.
If your android phone is infected by spyware software, then you can try removing it by following this simple step-by-step process;
- Start your phone in safe mode by long-pressing the power off button, and then again long-press the “Restart” button until you get a pop-up for “Reboot in safe mode.”
- Now let your phone reboot into safe mode.
- After a successful reboot, go to the application manager.
- Then, search for potential spyware apps by entering keywords like spyware, stealth, or trojan inside the search box.
- Now, review each app carefully to find the spyware in disguise. For example, “mSpy” uses the name “Update service” to go undetected.
- Next, you have to remove any suspicious apps from your android mobile. Although, many times, these apps come with administrative permission, which doesn’t allow a user to delete an app. Therefore, a user needs to remove the administrator permission by navigating to Settings > Security > Advanced > Device Administrators and finally unchecking the box.
- Lastly, restart your phone in normal mode.
Similarly, you can also do this process for an iOS device by following these steps:
- Go to Settings > General > iPhone storage.
- Then search for any suspicious apps.
- Finally, when you have found it, just long-press on the app icon and then press the “Delete App” to remove it.
To remove spyware manually on your Windows PC, just follow these simple steps:
- Check for any suspicious programs on your Windows PC. Do a little research work on the types of spyware programs so that you will be able to get hold of it easily.
- After you have found one, it is essential to stop that app from running in the background before uninstalling it. So, type “MSCONFIG” on the “Search” bar, and then disable it.
- Next, kill the process of the app using Taskbar.
- Now, uninstall the program by heading towards the “Programs and Features” option, and then right-click to uninstall.
- Then, delete any suspicious temporary file by accessing the “TEMP” folder on the “C” drive.
- Finally, restart the computer once the spyware is completely deleted from the computer.
You can also follow the below-mentioned Infographic Guide.
Update your device software:
The third solution is to update your device software because an Android and iOS update will help you unroot/unjailbreak the device. Having your device jailbreaked or rooted leaves your device more susceptible to dangerous cyber-attacks, as it breaks the built-in security of a device.
Therefore, if you notice that your device is rooted/jailbreaked, then immediately run a software update on your device. Moreover, updating your device fixes the bugs that were present in the previous version.
Factory reset your device:
Lastly, if nothing works for your device, then, unfortunately, you have to factory reset your device. Factory resetting your Android, iOS, or Windows device will remove any kind of malware, including spyware, from your device permanently.
But a word of caution, don’t fetch any of your data from the backup, as it may contain spyware residue inside it. It is better to start on a clean slate after a factory reset. Moreover, in some situations, you may have to replace your computer with a new hard drive.
Although I have mentioned some solutions to remove spyware from your device, it is still extremely necessary to follow these preventive measures to avoid any kind of future mishaps.
Always install a complete security solution:
Yes, this is the very first measure that I will recommend to you. A strong and trusted anti-virus or complete security solution will make sure that your device stays malware-free. And if it enters the system by any means, then this security tool will help you eliminate it in a few minutes.
Create a separate user:
Secondly, always create a separate user on your device, mostly the administrator, as it will block any kind of unauthorized app installation on your device.
As previously mentioned, spyware is not only limited to a software version, therefore, always try to be alert when someone wants to gift you a new keyboard or mouse or any kind of computer accessories.
Try using other devices:
If you suspect that someone is messing around with your device by installing spyware on your computer, then you better skip that device and try to access your important accounts from any other device.
When it is a code red, and you know your device has been compromised, then try accessing your accounts (bank, social media, and other important ones) from the other device, and reset or change all of their passwords.
Whenever you receive an email that contains a file or a link, always analyze it with antivirus software before clicking on it.
However, if you are using Gmail as your go-to email client, then you don’t need to worry much because Gmail scans the attachment for you, and if it finds anything suspicious, it will not let you download the file itself.
Avoid visiting strange websites:
If you ever feel like the website that you are trying to visit seems strange, then you better avoid visiting it.
Avoid clicking on pop-ups:
If you encounter random pop-ups on your screen while browsing the internet, then do yourself a favor and don’t ever click on them because they can contain spyware inside them.
Avoid chatting with strangers on chatting apps:
There have been many instances where users were bluffed by strangers while they were having conversations with them on Instant messaging apps.
So, if you are talking to a stranger and he/she sends you some kind of link or file, then just take a step back and avoid opening it.
Always keep your device’s software updated:
As previously mentioned, software update helps in keeping the device updated as well as removing any bugs from it. Therefore, don’t miss such important updates.
Stay away from open or public Wi-Fi:
Experts have mentioned this particular thing many times, and indeed, Public Wi-Fi is a soft spot for many hackers/intruders. Therefore, always try to avoid Public Wi-Fi hotspots, even if you are in a trusted café.
Run regular app checks:
Always try to run regular app checks so that you can easily find a fake app if it gets installed on your system. Moreover, many Antivirus apps are capable of scanning the apps too, therefore try scheduling a regular antivirus scan on apps.
Stay away from rooting or jailbreaking your device.
Don’t, I repeat, don’t ever jailbreak or root your devices. Rooting or jailbreaking your device may sabotage the in-built security system of your device, which in turn can permit spyware software to enter into the system.
Always keep a strong screen lock:
Lastly, an intruder can also try to install spyware software by gaining physical access to your devices, which is why it becomes very much important to implement a strong screen lock on your device.
Final Remarks on “Can spyware be installed through email?”
So, after this long discussion, it can be said that spyware can be easily installed through e-mail.
Therefore, if you have encountered a suspicious email on your device, it is better to take one step back and follow these preventive measures as well as solutions to prevent your device from any unwanted damage.