Spyware is malicious software that falls into the category of malware attacks. It is a kind of malware attack carried out by the attacker to spy on the victim’s data. It may sound like some James bond movie kind of software, but yeah, it exists. And because of which there are many discussion that is carried out on this particular question “Why was spyware developed?”
Well, don’t worry, because in this article I will be providing you with the answer to this most debated question about spyware, and also, I will try to provide you with some solutions to tackle this malware attack.
- 1 Why was Spyware Developed?
- 2 History of Spyware:
- 3 What are the Different Types of Spyware?
- 4 What are the Main Sources of Spyware Infection?
- 5 Common Symptoms of Spyware Infection:
- 6 How to Tackle Spyware Attacks, if I am Affected by Them?
- 7 How to Keep Yourself from Spyware Infection?
- 8 Final Remarks on Why was Spyware Developed
Why was Spyware Developed?
As the name suggests spyware was developed with the intent to spy upon the user’s data and steal them for third-party organizations or to initiate data theft.
So, when an attacker or cyber-criminal injects your computer system with Spyware either through a Trojan attack or ad pop-up or drive-by download method, it automatically permits the attacker to spy on your online activities, including your personal and payment information.
It is a kind of malware attack that stays low-key because of its working. It sneaks into your entire computer system and data, without even giving you a hint about it.
According to Malwarebytes “Around 80% of the internet users have their system affected by Spyware, whereas about 93% of Spyware components are present in each of the computers. Additionally, 89% of the users are unaware of the Spyware infection, and about 95% of the users confessed that they never granted permission to install them.”
Therefore, you may be unaware of the spyware installation in your system because it is bundled up with legitimate software.
History of Spyware:
It is hard to point out the origin and exact time of the birth of Spyware, but it was mostly used in the Usenet discussion in the mid-90s. Although in the early 2000s spyware was used as the term to describe software that spies on computer data without our permission.
The first “anti-spyware” software was released in June 2000. Although Windows OS is the most affected OS with spyware, thanks to its huge user community, now cybercriminals are even turning their eyes towards Apple and Android platforms.
What are the Different Types of Spyware?
So, after a brief discussion over the history of spyware, we shall now see the different types of spyware that can be injected into your system in order to ruin your privacy.
Types of Spywares:
It is a kind of spyware application that is used to steal information from financial institutions. They mainly target financial institutions like banks, brokerages, digital wallets, or online financial portals.
They mostly take advantage of browser vulnerabilities and try to modify web pages, transactions, or even insert additional transactions, that are invisible to both user and web application.
- Password stealers:
As the name suggests it is a type of spyware application that is meant to steal your passwords from your computer system. The passwords that are collected with the help of this application may include stored credentials from browsers, system login credentials as well as critical financial passwords.
The passwords can be kept by an attacker at a fixed place or can also be transmitted to a remote server for repossession.
Info stealers are a kind of malicious application used to steal data including username, passwords, email addresses, browser history, log files, system information, documents, spreadsheets, or other media files.
Similar to banking trojans it can steal your personal information in online forums or services by exploiting the security holes of the browsers, and then transmitting it to a remote server or keeping it on your PC for retrieval.
Also known as “System Monitors”, Keyloggers are the applications to capture computer activity that includes; keystrokes, website visits, email discussions, chatroom dialogue’s, search history, and system credentials. They can secretly screenshot the current window in use, at a proper interval of time.
They can also collect images, audio, and video from any connected devices and can even collect documents that are on connected printers, that can be again transmitted to a remote server or can be stored locally.
Pegasus is one of the spyware developed by Israeli cyber arms firm “NSO”, that can be secretly installed on any iOS or Android mobile phone. The very recent “The 2021 Pegasus project” revealed that it could exploit all the recent iOS versions up to iOS 14.6.
What are the Main Sources of Spyware Infection?
So, after learning about the different types of spyware applications, now we shall study the main sources of spyware infection, and they are:
- File-Sharing sites:
File sharing sites like Torrent sites have grown popular among file-sharers in recent times, and so is the risk of spyware applications that can be bundled up with the media you download from these sites.
- Unverified downloads:
We all have done this, whether it was on our computer and mobile, but these kinds of downloading sites that offer free music, video, or application download come packed with ample of malware and viruses.
Thus, to be safe we should stick to the legitimate sites. Even nowadays we have apps like Spotify that provide music to us.
- Adult sites:
This is again the most committed sin, and yes, these sites are not healthy for your online security. These kinds of sites trick you into purchasing their membership by shipping out some adware on your screen and will do anything to “seduce” you to use your credit cards.
- Shareware and freeware software:
Many hackers camouflage the spyware applications in the form of shareware and freeware software and abuse the user data. Therefore, download them from legitimate Shareware websites.
- Unknown emails:
This is the most common tool used to inject spyware by hackers. It is done by tricking a user into opening a mail that contains spyware software.
- Mobile Spywares:
Most of the world population has adopted using mobile phones as their get-to-along device, and thus attackers have also taken it to the next step.
As the mobile phone is small, the user is generally not able to recognize that an application is running in the background, therefore it becomes very easy for an attacker to attack a mobile device with bundled-up spyware software that looks legitimate.
Common Symptoms of Spyware Infection:
- An unwelcomed pop-up appears on the screen.
- An antivirus scan is active although you haven’t installed any.
- Your computer slows down when you try to access websites.
- You notice rapid battery consumption.
- Your default web browser seems changed and has new toolbars.
- When you click on a toolbar or a link, it redirects you to unexpected locations.
- Your computer system experiences more crashes or hangs up.
- Difficult logging into secured websites.
How to Tackle Spyware Attacks, if I am Affected by Them?
So, many times even after being so alert we can easily be spoofed to install spyware software. Therefore, if you are affected by the spyware, follow these steps:
- First, disconnect your computer from the network, run a full system scan and uninstall infected software or applications.
- Secondly, if anyhow your machine had confidential business data related to any business and enterprise, then according to the law you have to inform the law enforcement or make it public for a disclosure.
- If the compromised data consists of any sensitive data or images/videos, then you should report potential violations of federal or state laws.
- If you are offered free “Identity Theft Monitoring” which monitors unauthorized transactions and even freezes your credit account, there is no harm to accept the service.
How to Keep Yourself from Spyware Infection?
There are ample ways that can help you prevent yourself from spyware infections, so follow these proven methods:
- If you are running a big or small organization and if you want to avoid the vulnerability of spyware attacks, then you should try to train your employees regularly regarding how to download software, from where to download software, reading the full End User License Agreement before accepting it, how to block pop-ups, avoiding clicking any suspicious links or attachments.
- Always make it a habit to back up your data, so that you can stay rest assured in the future.
- Always keep your software and security settings up to date.
- Install trusted and accurate antispyware software and reliable firewalls.
- Gain more control over your applications, protect your business assets from attacks with end-to-end encryption, automated and intelligent defence.
- Avoid downloading files from an untrusted source.
- Avoid spammy emails.
- Practice hovering your mouse on the links before clicking them, just to make sure that you are redirected to the right and authentic website.
- Do not install every free app, because the apps that claim to be free, tend to use the user data for their marketing purposes. So, install only those apps which are verified by a trusted source.
- Use your browser as a firewall to block unwanted content or unwanted cookies installation. Therefore, go to the settings on your browser, and then adjust the security level from “Low” to “High.”
- Never click “OK” or “Agree”, on an adware pop-ups that claims to scan your PC or mobile for potential viruses, as it is just a trickery played by the hacker to install spyware.
- Delete your browser cookies every day to avoid any harmful residue.
- Install plugins like Ghostery, Peer Block, and Disconnect, that helps in blocking the tracker.
- Always use a VPN service to add another layer of protection while surfing the internet.
Final Remarks on Why was Spyware Developed
We all are aware, that this digital world comes with its own downfalls and security breaches like Spyware that can steal your data and your financial credentials in no time, and after that, transfer it to a third party or gain benefit by exploiting it.
Spywares are those secretive villains which are hard to detect, and even harder to eliminate. Therefore, you should be well aware of this specific malware attack to avoid any kind of security theft.
On that point, this was my short discussion on the topic “Why was spyware developed”, that hopefully has helped you to get a clear insight into the problems that Spyware comes pre-loaded with.