What Is Spyware And How Does It Work?

What Is Spyware And How Does It Work?

What Is Spyware And How Does It Work?

 Ever heard that a country can spy on its citizens or record their online activity without being noticed. Want to know how they can do it? Yes, it's spyware. So what is spyware? How does it work? And what can you do to protect your PCs, laptops and other devices from this malicious software?

What Is Spyware?

Spyware is a type of malware that is used to steal someone's sensitive information, and send it to another person or another organization without that person's permission. This malware can also be used to steal other people's identities. The information stolen varies, it can include bank account details, usernames and passwords, even other people's online browsing activity. Generally, spyware is used by hostile countries, government agencies, or private companies to monitor their targets.

Spyware was already in the limelight in the tech world around the mid-1990s, when it was mostly used by private companies to monitor user data for marketing purposes. Since then, as the world has become more connected, spyware has become more common, as have the types of agents that use it.

In fact, as per a report by MIT Technology Review, there are even legal private businesses involved in providing surveillance services via spyware, which are making huge fortunes tracking journalists and political activists around the world.

How Do Spyware Work?

Remember that spyware is the opposite of a computer virus. Which means spyware does not damage files or interfere with the work of the victim's PC. It's more subtle than that. The main purpose of spyware is to surreptitiously monitor a person's information and then relay all the extracted information back to the creator or sometimes to a third party. So, a broken computer may even be counterproductive for its purpose, as it may render you unable to run your system, and in turn, render spyware unable to do what it is designed to do, i.e. steal your data.

Spyware infiltrates systems silently, masquerading as only safe software. Other times, when you visit an infected website, it will run a script, which will prompt your browser to download spyware onto your device. Historically, this has happened a lot with Internet Explorer, a browser known for its security flaws. This makes Windows an easy target for all kinds of online threats, including spyware.

Like most security vulnerabilities, spyware infiltration is most likely to be found in systems running Windows. It could be due to its initial design flaws, or it might be the unintended result of having the largest market share in desktop operating systems, but if you're running Windows you should always be on your toes. For example, let's look at keylogging. This is a type of spyware that, as the name suggests, keeps logs of your typing to steal your sensitive data, such as card or bank details, usernames, and passwords.

Keyloggers steal information that you enter via your keyboard, and do it silently, recording everything you type. Keylogging is just one type of spyware. There are many other types of spyware out there. Now that you know how spyware works, let's now look at some possible countermeasures.

How to Protect Computer From Spyware Threats?

We probably already know that prevention is better than cure. Therefore here are some ways to prevent spyware.

1. Use Default Antivirus

If you are a Windows user, use the Windows Defender antivirus. Previously called Windows Defender, it is a free antivirus tool created by Microsoft that can deal with low-level threats. If you're running a Mac, you can use XProtect, Apple's version of Antivirus Defender.

2. Don't Visit Untrustworthy Websites

Surprisingly, there are many websites that only spread malware. When you visit a malicious website, it may secretly install spyware on your PC, either through advertisements, pop-ups, or by drive-by download. Your browser will probably tell you if the site you are visiting is questionable or insecure, especially if there is no SSL certificate, i.e. the URL is displayed as HTTP instead of the HTTPS option.

3. Use a Professional Antivirus

A third-party dedicated antivirus is a great way to protect yourself from all kinds of online threats, including spyware. Some of these are free, but don't be afraid to shell out some cash for a decent antivirus as it's your first line of defense.

4. Don't Open Unknown Emails

After browsing malicious websites, opening or downloading attachments from unknown emails is the second biggest cause of spyware infections. Delete any suspicious emails you receive, or at the very least, don't download any attachments.

5. Avoid downloading using torrents

Admins understand. Who doesn't love free and unlimited TV shows and games? What most users don't realize, however, is that their favorite torrent sites are hotbeds of malware, worms, viruses, and other malicious programs. Hence you can save yourself a lot of trouble by avoiding torrent sites.

6. Keep updating the operating system

Evil hackers are always looking for new loopholes in computer systems. Thus, manufacturers regularly release new updates with fixes for common bugs and security vulnerabilities. If you haven't updated your operating system yet or updates are disabled, update now!

7. Download Applications From Third Party Sites

You have to do some creative work, maybe edit videos or images, and now, you need an app that has more complex features. Paid apps may not be suitable for everyone, so people download free pirated versions from third-party websites.

These free websites, however, also need to make money, so they may install spyware or adware along with free applications to make some quick money. Also, with many open source alternatives for almost all popular apps, you don't need to download pirated apps.


So what is spyware? Spyware is a type of malicious software that tries to sneak into your system, and once there, it steals your sensitive data and sends it to its creators. While there are many ways to remove malicious software such as spyware, it is better to follow proper security measures, and avoid spyware infiltration altogether.

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Resa Risyan

Just an ordinary person who wants to share a little knowledge, hopefully the knowledge I provide can be useful for all of us. Keep in mind! Useful knowledge is an investment in the afterlife.

Also, read the article about What is SQL Injection: How it Works, Examples, and Types. And see you in another article. Bye
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