What is Spyware, and How Do You Remove It?

Abeerah Hashim  - Security Expert
Last updated: May 10, 2023
Read time: 11 minutes Disclosure

Spyware poses significant dangers to your privacy. Read this article to find out what spyware is, how it operates, and how to stay safe.

Spyware is a malware type that spies on you through various ways like keyloggers, rootkits, infostealers, etc. It can also hijack your browser, take control of your device remotely or commit identity theft. That is why we recommend you use a strong antispyware program, among adopting other security measures, to stay safe.

Many cyber threats exist these days that can compromise your security and privacy. They come in many forms, and spyware is one of the most prevalent. This malware type collects and stores your information silently without your knowledge. Unfortunately, the malware is difficult to detect once it infiltrates your device because of its covert nature.

Read on to find out what spyware is, how it works, how to remove it, and much more. 

What is spyware?

Spyware is malicious software that infiltrates your devices to collect and share your data with third parties without your knowledge or consent. It is also used for legitimate purposes like advertising. However, in this case, we will focus on the spyware used for malicious reasons like stealing data.  

The problem is that spyware surveillance exposes you to data breaches and abuse of your private information. Additionally, the software will affect your device’s performance, making it extremely slow. 

Knowing how spyware works and the common types will help you to stay vigilant. 

What spyware does to your device

Spyware is designed to examine your data and other activities on your device. Usually, it will take the following actions.

  1. Infiltration – This can be done in various ways, like file attachments, malicious websites, or packages. 
  2. Collect data – Once it gets into your device, the spyware will gather your data through screen captures, keystrokes, tracking codes, etc. 
  3. Share stolen data – Sends the data to the attacker or shares directly with third parties. 

The collected information is general, like your online browsing behavior. However, the spyware can be modified to perform more specific tasks. Some personal information spyware can collect includes account PINs, login credentials, credit card numbers, email addresses, and keyboard strokes. 

How spyware infects your devices 

Because of its covert nature, spyware conceals itself and operates silently unseen. Usually, it is hidden within normal websites and downloads.

Bundled software packages or bundleware is a common way of delivering spyware. This is where the malicious software embeds itself on a legitimate program you would download. 

Some spyware installs on your device without any notice. However, others will be included in licensing agreements of legitimate programs. So, when you agree to the terms, you voluntarily and unknowingly install the spyware on your device.

Some of the common ways spyware can infect your device include;

Software downloads 

Some downloads you do on the internet, like file-sharing applications, can install spyware on your device. For example, some free games have harmful elements like viruses and keyloggers. 

Drive-by downloads 

In this case, a popup window or website automatically downloads malicious spyware on your device. Sometimes you can get a warning, or the software can request permission, but there won’t be a warning in most cases.