What is spyware? Tips to protect your device from spyware
Pegasus, a super sophisticated form of spyware has been in the news a lot lately. However, Pegasus is commercial spyware that’s sold mainly to government agencies to spy on potential terrorists. By now you know that governments of certain countries have allegedly misused it to spy on politicians, journalists, religious leaders, et al.
However, the point is, Pegasus costs millions of dollars to buy, so small-scale cybercriminals definitely cannot afford it. And assuming that you are not a politically important figure, it is likely that you’ll be targetted illegally via a more generic, less sophisticated kind of spyware.
Since many people do not really understand what exactly spyware is, there’s a quick go-through in layman’s language.
What exactly is spyware?
Spyware is a type of software that gets onto your computer or smartphone and is generally used to gather your personal information and then send advertisements to you, normally in the form of a pop-up ad. Spyware software can also change your computer configuration and do many other potentially harmful things. Even though the term spyware may suggest that the software is simply monitoring action in a secretive way, the purpose of spyware usually goes well beyond this.
The party responsible for creating and distributing the spyware are often profiting greatly through targeted advertising or selling off your personal information. When spyware software is on a computer or smartphone, it generally is hidden from the user. Spyware has evolved with time and is often impossible to detect on a device. Even worse, once detected, some spyware can be quite hard to remove.
Difference between spyware and adware
The terms spyware and adware are often used interchangeably. Both of these terms are used to describe software that can display advertisements. However, there is one major difference between these two: spyware gets onto the user’s computer through illicit means. It will install itself on your device without you knowing it, and very often, your computer or smartphone will start misbehaving before you know what’s going on.
With adware, the user agrees to have the adware program installed in exchange for something else. For instance, many programs or apps will allow users access to certain premium features for free but they must agree to receive advertisements. The keyword here is “agree.” Adware will not attempt to mislead users and is offered in exchange for a service. Rather than asking users to pay a registration fee, adware asks them to agree to receive advertisements.
How to protect yourself from spyware?
First of all, it is very important to keep your computer/smartphone/tablet up to date. The brand behind your smart device always actively looks for bugs and vulnerabilities in the software and pushes over-the-air security updates to fix them. However, sophisticated spyware like Pegasus can even bypass this.
Then, more importantly, never open a link inside a potentially malicious SMS or WhatsApp message. Even if you have a slight doubt, just don’t open it. Scamsters generally lure you into clicking malicious links by the means of tempting get-rich-quick schemes, so beware!
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