Spyware: What it is, what types exist and how it can be removed

Find out how you can protect yourself online in order to avoiding these dangerous Internet threats.

Spyware is one of the most common computer attacks that Internet users may encounter. It is often ignored under the guise of being simple computer problems, but in reality these harmful programs pose significant risks and can jeopardize personal information. Read on to learn what spyware is, what form it can take and how to get rid of it.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of software that is installed on a computer without the user being aware of it. It usually comes hidden along with other programs that are knowingly installed, making it very difficult to detect. Once on your computer, it collects information to send to third parties. This information is often personal: Everything from search histories to passwords and email accounts; a complete violation of the user’s privacy. The damage it can cause varies depending on the type of spyware: sometimes it is merely a nuisance, but it can lead to identity theft in the worst case scenario.

One of the biggest problems is the difficulty in detecting it, enabling the software to install itself on a computer without the user being aware of it. It is usually included in programs or files that are downloaded from the Internet or even as email attachments. It is possible to detect it, however, by paying attention to some of the signs that might indicate the presence of spyware. Signs of spyware include problems such as: your computer running excessively slow, unfamiliar icons appearing on toolbars, searches being redirected or performed by an unfamiliar search engine.

Types of spyware

Knowing which types of spyware exist can also help you identify them. The main types are:

  • Keyloggers: This is one of the most dangerous types. A keylogger records the user’s keystrokes on their computer. The greatest risk lies in the fact that passwords can also be logged when they are entered, e.g. when using a credit card to make a purchase.

  • Adware: This is the most common type. It causes pop-up advertising to appear constantly. Not only is it annoying, but any information you provide may be stored and sent without your permission when accessing any of these sites.

  • Infostealers: Just like the keylogger, this type operates without the user realizing that it is collecting and sending information from the computer. In this case, it indiscriminately collects all data entered on the computer: from multimedia content to search history, including passwords and email accounts.

It should be noted that spyware changes and adapts to overcome new security measures built into operating systems. Therefore, it is difficult to establish a complete classification of this type of software.

How to remove spyware

Although it is difficult to detect, you can prevent it from being installed on your computer. The best options are:

  • Using an antispyware tool: These tools perform a scan of your computer to locate all types of spyware. They are then removed once analysis is complete. These programs are usually the most effective solution for this problem, and you can choose between free or paid versions.

  • Manual removal: This is more complicated due to spyware’s aforementioned ability to hide. However, if detected, removing it will cause the threat to disappear. This option is best suited for users with advanced computer skills.

  • Reinstalling the operating system: This may be the most drastic measure, but sometimes it is the only option. If the antispyware program fails to eliminate the problem, then the computer can be formatted. This is why it is important, before starting the process, to backup all of your data, as it will be deleted.

Removing spyware once it is detected is complicated. It is therefore best to prevent the problem before it happens. To protect yourself against this type of malware and to prevent it from being installed on your computer, it is advisable to keep your operating system and Internet browsers up to date, avoid unreliable download websites and perform regular scans, even if there is no apparent sign that spyware might be present. Spyware is one of the most common problems an Internet user can experience. Detecting and deleting it in time is crucial to prevent personal information from being stolen.