5 Options for Protecting your Devices from Spyware
Spyware is software that infiltrates a device, collects personal information from the user, and sends it to third parties.
Attackers resell the obtained data, use it to hack accounts, or access credit cards.
Protect your Devices from Spyware
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What is Spyware?
All spyware is divided into three groups:
- Keyloggers - Register keystrokes, which gives access to logins, passwords, personal correspondence, etc.
- Data and Password Hijackers - Scan your device and/or browser for vulnerabilities. With their help, they collect browser history, search queries, logins, and passwords.
- Banking Trojans - Work similar to data thieves but aims to collect information about authorization in online banking, gaining access to crypto wallets.
- Stolen accounts are listed for sale. Then they are used to extort money through suspicious emails or requests to borrow from “friends” on social networks.
How Spyware Infections Occur
Spyware can be picked up by Windows, Mac, Android, and Linux users. This happens when:
- Following unknown links lead to the launch of a web application or an executable file, initiating a "shadow download" of the virus to the device. The downloaded "spy" starts collecting information and/or infects other documents - pass such a file to a friend, and his information will also be visible to attackers.
- Reading emails from unknown senders, tapping random advertisements on the Internet, and allowing access to the cookie-browser.
- Installing software from unprotected or unofficial sources.
According to statistics from Avast Threat Labs, in March-June 2020, with the introduction of quarantine measures, the number of installed spyware increased by 51% compared to January-February of the same year.
How to Protect Yourself from Spyware
Understanding how spyware works and where it comes from makes it easier to defend against it by using 5 main methods.
1) Caution in the Network
Set of rules when surfing:
For example, in Chrome, the information on the resource’s safety is indicated opposite its link in the search bar.
- Do not follow unfamiliar links received in emails or messages in instant messengers;
- Check the safety rating of a site
Phishing sites pose a separate threat. The interface is similar to the original, using an identical or abbreviated address:
- Geegle instead of Google;
- Facobook instead of Facebook;
- YT instead of YouTube.
The essence of phishing is to prevent the user from noticing the substitution, go through authorization, and/or buy the proposed product, disclosing their account and bank card details.
2) Use Antiviruses
Your attentiveness is supported by the help of antiviruses, which scan your device for malware in real-time or at specified intervals. Also, such programs can:
- Protect online payments;
- Block adult content when parental controls are on;
- Search and block smartphones and tablets connected to them.
It is recommended to use Premium versions of antivirus software and select projects with a proven track record. For example, in 2019, PC Mag and Motherboard conducted an independent investigation and found that Avast antivirus was selling users' data. The AVG browser extension is also collecting personal information about users, said Vladimir Palant, the Adblock Plus plugin creator.
Most antiviruses on Android do not work or can detect only 30% of threats. Real protection is provided by renowned products from ESET, McAfee, Kaspersky Lab, and others.
3) Use a Virtual Private Network
VPNs encrypt user traffic, and it becomes impossible to intercept. Perhaps this is most useful when using Wi-Fi networks in cafes, public transport, or bus stops.
Also, VPN providers offer:
- Double encryption (NordVPN & Surfshark);
- Special servers and obfuscation technology for ignoring geo-restrictions (Chinese "Golden Shield,” restrictions in the UAE);
- Removal of ISP restrictions (providers can deliberately underestimate the speed in games or streaming services), which VPNs successfully ignore;
- Kill Switch’s emergency shutdown function makes it impossible to access the Internet before reconnecting to a secure server, implemented by all popular providers.
Certain brands such as Surfshark, CyberGhost, and PIA complement their customers with built-in ad-blockers, malicious sites, and software.
Free VPNs, instead of full-fledged encryption, use a regular proxy and can collect information about users.
4) Keep your Operating System Updated
Updates eliminate vulnerabilities and improve built-in protection against viruses and spyware. Therefore, it is essential to use the current operating system on the PC.
Android smartphones are more complicated. Models from unknown brands receive one to five security patches, after which they are left without further support. In devices from Chinese brands, they find built-in tracking and backdoor applications (the ability to bypass device protection without the user's knowledge). Such software was found in Xiaomi smartphones, and the US Department of Commerce even blacklisted Huawei.
5) Do NOT Download Suspicious Software
Software packages and installation exe files from aggregator sites can hide spyware. Most of all, suspicious software are found on torrent trackers.
If the program cannot be downloaded from the official site, check all content downloaded from the network using antivirus software or Sandboxes. The latter is a safe environment inside the computer, within which they run unverified programs without harm to the central system.
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