Spyware: What is It & How to Remove It

Spyware: What It Is and How To Remove

Spyware presents a significant cybersecurity challenge to small and medium sized businesses. It operates discreetly, or disguised as a genuine app, and may evade the scrutiny of your IT team for a long time. But its effects can be devastating, even leading to the collapse of your business. To be on the safe side, it’s essential that every business takes measures to protect itself from spyware. This article covers everything you should know about spyware.

What is Spyware and What Does it Do?

Spyware refers to malicious software installed on your device to monitor, control, or steal your data without your knowledge. It gains entry to your sensitive personal or business information, such as your financial records, customer and supplier data, and other important details, and relays it to third parties, who may use the stolen information for malicious purposes.

Ever wondered why particular ads flood your browser after visiting some websites? Spyware tracks your online activity, installing cookies on your browser, and passing the information to third parties, which use or sell it to advertisers.

But spyware does much more than just attract unsolicited ads to your devices. It can track and capture your login credentials, and supply them to third parties or the spyware author, who can use them for identity theft or to commit fraud.

Spyware also monitors your browsing activities with the hope of controlling your website experience. For instance, spyware may place suspicious links disguised as legitimate ads on your current website, enticing you to click on them. If you happen to click on such links, you’ll likely land on a potential site for phishing.

Types of Spyware

Your business may encounter four common types of spyware, with different functions. Their functions include monitoring your website activities, so third parties can push pesky ads at you, or recording your keystrokes hoping to capture your login credentials. Here are the four types of spyware:

Adware

Adware monitors your browsing activity to capture your interests. It sends your online activity data to advertisers, so they can send you targeted but unsolicited ads. But adware can do much more than just pushing ads to the web pages you visit. Hackers can use this type of spyware to lure you to their site via deceptive ads, and gain access to your system.

Trojans

This type of spyware can be quite difficult to prevent since it comes disguised as legitimate files or software. Culprits are often those seemingly harmless email attachments, or common utility software files on dubious sites. This is all the more reason to download software from reputable sites, or to delete emails with strange attachments immediately when they hit your inbox.

Internet tracking

You leave behind an online footprint when you browse the web, and third parties can track this footprint to see which sites you visit, what you search online, and even what you download. They can use this data to prop up phony apps or attachments and to lure you into exposing sensitive data.

System monitors

Often disguised as freeware, system monitors can infiltrate your IT systems quite easily. They monitor, control and capture everything you do on your computer, including emails, chat room exchanges, programs run, websites visited, and login credentials. Before you download and install any freeware on your device, be sure it’s from a reputable site to prevent this type of spyware from infiltrating your computers.

How to Protect Your Business from Spyware

It’s extremely important for businesses to ensure all data, information and the entire IT infrastructure is secure from cyber attackers. With more people working remotely, the risk of attackers targeting security vulnerabilities in IT systems is higher than ever before.

It’s even worse for SMBs, which often have limited resources to mitigate a data breach. As quoted in the National Cybersecurity Alliance, the average cost of a data breach could be as high as $149,000. Very few SMBs can survive such an onslaught. Their best hope is implementing water-tight cybersecurity measures to prevent such attacks.

Here are 4 steps to protect your business from spyware:

1. Initiate more robust security policies

Stronger policies make it difficult for spyware to infiltrate your systems. They include logging into your systems from specific devices, using the 2FA authentication method, and avoiding public WiFi.

2. Train all employees on cybersecurity 

Every employee needs to undergo cybersecurity training. Ensure they know what to look for, and what to do (or not to do), at all times. Some basic practices include not storing passwords on their mobile devices and avoiding clicking on suspicious links or email attachments, among other measures.

3. Use premium up-to-date antivirus software

Premium anti malware may be expensive, but it cannot compare with the devastating effects of a malware attack. Invest in up-to-date and reliable antivirus to tackle any spyware or virus attempting to infiltrate your systems.

4. Create strong passwords and change them often

Ensure all your passwords have no fewer than eight characters, and feature letters, numbers, as well as special characters. Also, be sure to change them often in case they fall into the wrong hands.

How to Remove Spyware in 5 Steps

When hit by spyware, the first thing to do is to prevent it from causing more damage. You can do so by following these steps:

  1. Install a premium antivirus software and run a scan. It should capture and uninstall any malware on your system.
  2. Manually delete all files associated with spyware activity. Most malware hides files in the temporary folder, so access them and delete all unrecognizable files.
  3. Clear your browsers of all cookies.
  4. Secure your credentials by changing passwords. Be sure to create strong passwords that are not easy to crack. 
  5. Update your teams on general cybersecurity measures, so you’re on the same page.

Spyware may appear harmless, but can drive your business into the ground. Adopt proper cybersecurity policies to secure your systems against potential attacks. Since this can be a challenge for small businesses, you may consider outsourcing cybersecurity services to a reliable and professional IT services provider. Contact Electric for a reliable IT partner that can grow with your business, and secure it from potential cybersecurity threats.

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