In previous articles, we’ve discussed phishing and ransomware and how they can wreak havoc on your firm, clients, and employees.
However, you should be aware of another type of malicious hacker program — Spyware. Spyware is a specific type of software that can be particularly insidious.
What is Spyware?
Spyware is software that allows hackers to monitor every move you make on your computer, tablet, or smartphone and how you interact online in real-time. The data tracked can include website history, keystrokes, screenshots, and other information that outlines your daily activity. Every single move you make could potentially be monitored and logged, and you’d have no idea that it was happening. Spyware can have an extremely damaging effect on you and your business.
How Is Spyware Used Against Me?
Hackers can leverage their findings in a number of different ways. These are just a few ways this information can benefit hacking groups:
- It can be sold to interested parties for fraud purposes
- Hackers can assume your identity
- Other sensitive information could be used for ransom purposes
Although it sounds simple, there are actually four different types of spyware. Understanding what makes them different from others and how to detect their presence is crucial.
Four Types of Spyware
There are four common types of spyware that you should be aware of. Some of these are easier to detect than others. A decrease in your computer’s operating speed, lower disk space, and unexplained network traffic are all telltale signs of the presence of spyware. Your computer may also slow to a crawl or eventually crash if these programs go unnoticed.
Here are the four (4) most common types of spyware:
These are also known as system monitors, and they’re made to record all of the activity on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This includes everything you type or enter (keystrokes), internet search history, email activity, chat logs, and printed documents.
The name is self-explanatory, as these programs collect passwords from various login portals.
Infostealers take advantage of browser vulnerabilities and collect sensitive data. Hackers can access usernames, passwords, log files, spreadsheets, media files, and other critical information.
Banking trojans also take advantage of security vulnerabilities. These programs steal bank login information and digital wallet passwords.
There are multiple ways a system can become infected with spyware. For the most part, infection typically takes place in the same manner as any other malicious software – Trojans, viruses, worms, and other programs are injected into ordinary files or hidden in folders and directories that mask their true nature.
Users can unknowingly download these programs by opening malicious emails or visiting a malicious website, such as a “phishing mirror” — a website designed to mirror the appearance of one you trust.
Besides all of the normal security measures, education is perhaps the most powerful protection. Inform your employees about the dangers of unsafe and unfamiliar websites and downloads – and make sure you have policies in place to monitor and safeguard employee behavior online.
The cost of prevention is much less than the cost of remediation.