Many computer users live under the notion that their laptops and desktops are only vulnerable to virus attacks and operating system crashes. In this dynamic digital era, its equally good for you to start worrying about spyware and other malicious computer programs designed to siphon data from your machine without user authorization.
A Spyware is software that is installed on a computing device without the end user’s knowledge. Such software is controversial because even though it is sometimes installed for relatively innocuous reasons, it can violate the end user’s privacy and has the potential to be abused.
These spywares are sometimes installed for monitoring reasons where they are referred to as tracking software. In the workplace, such software may be installed on corporate laptops to monitor employees’ browsing activities.
If the end user is told that data is being collected and has the ability to learn with whom the data is being shared, such data collection programs are not considered spyware.
When tracking software is abused, there can be a significant impact on privacy. For example, if a smartphone gets infected with mobile spyware that was sideloaded with a third party app, the phone’s camera and microphone can be used to spy on nearby activity, record phone calls, log browsing activity and keystrokes, and monitor the phone owner’s location. This will be a total violation of end user privacy under any country’s ICT legislation.
Spyware can be difficult to detect; often, the first indication a user has that a computing device has been infected with spyware is a noticeable reduction in processor or network connection speeds and in the case of mobile devices, data usage and battery life.
Antivirus software that includes anti-spyware protection should be used to find and remove spyware. To prevent spyware, users should only download software from trusted sources, read all disclosures when installing software, avoid clicking on pop-up ads and stay current with updates and patches for browser, operating system and application software.
Many internet users were first introduced to spyware in 1999, when a popular freeware game called “Elf Bowling” came bundled with tracking software.