How to Remove Spyware and Protect Your Privacy
Despite what many people think, and how old this type of malware is – spyware is still dangerous, and the latest free version of your favorite antivirus is not going to protect you. As The Register reports, a banking Trojan, targeting Android users has been making rounds lately, spreading through certain, malicious ads. The scenario in which this Trojan spreads is quite familiar to long-time Windows users, but it is quite surprising to smartphone users. Even worse, an android device can get infected by the so-called Svpeng Trojan, simply by visiting your favorite mainstream sites. As Mikhail Kuzin and Nikita Buchka from the Kaspersky Lab explain, “There you are, minding your own business, reading the news and BOOM! – no additional clicks or following links required”. The code is downloaded through Google AdSense; according to the Inquirer, the same exact tactic was used to spread the Trojan via the Meduza news portal, just a month ago.
According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, almost 70% of adults in the United States own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011. Furthermore, ownership has even reached saturation with some demographics: 86% of people ages 18-29 own a smartphone, as do 83% of those ages 30-49. In recent years, smartphones have become the extensions of ourselves, and over time, we have learned to trust them with our private information. We use them to answer emails, catch up on work, photograph special moments, deposit checks and much, much more. The fact is – you can learn a lot about someone, from the contents of their phone. This is why you should learn more about spyware – a type of malware that can nose around and observe the activities happening on your phone without your knowledge.
What Exactly is Spyware?
While the name of this software may have a James Bond-like quality to it – it simply a piece of mobile malware. It is designed to monitor your activities, steal your personal information and sell it to a third party. Once installed on your smartphone, spyware gains access to existing data on your device and proceeds to oversee future activity without your knowledge or consent. This malware can monitor everything from your SMS conversations, to GPS locations, and more. It does all of this in the background, so the user does not even notice it. Just consider the value of the information a person could obtain by listening in on a 5-minute call with your bank, and given the scope of data collected, spyware is not a threat to ignore.
How is it Installed?
The first thing you need to know is that not all spyware is illegal. In some countries, like the US and the UK, certain types of spyware have found a quasi-legal position in the market. What’s more, some companies were able to market it and sell it as software that helps parents’ monitors their children. For instance, in South Korea, the government designed an app named, “Smart Sheriff”, primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content found online. As Yahoo reports, the app gives parents the ability to see their kid’s phone activity in real-time, disable apps and even totally shut down the phone. Commercial spyware often lands on your smartphone by being physically downloaded and if you fail to set a password on your lock screen (like more than 40% of smartphone owners), a few minutes alone with your device is enough for someone to compromise your privacy.
In spite of the big likelihood of misuse, you can easily install this type of malware from vendor sites to app marketplaces, which is why it is so commonly linked to the suspicious spouse – it does not require any technical knowledge to install. Now, let us talk a little about malicious spyware; this software is anything but legal, and it often targets people and organizations for financial or political gain. Users can download it inadvertently via a web browser, phishing emails, or even be fooled into downloading it from your app store.
According to a study of smartphone owner and their privacy mindsets, conducted by the mobile security company, Lookout, more than 40% of smartphone owners believe that they are “privacy conscious”. However, they still revert to risky mobile behaviors like downloading suspicious apps from unofficial stores and revealing personal data on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. In reality, your phone and your data are secure as you are willing to keep them, and being proactive with your security measures will help you steer clear of threats like spyware.
· Lock Your Phone Down
If you do not set a pin or a password your phone, you are basically leaving the front door to your personal info wide open. While it may be inconvenient, this your only defense if someone gains physical access to your phone and intends to install spyware.
· Take Advantage of Mobile Security
This security measure will only take a few minutes of your time; most high-class antiviruses have anti-spyware features build into them, which detect these kinds of threats, and warn you before your privacy has been compromised. You only need to google around for a few minutes, look at a few forums, user reviews, or maybe even find a list of quality antivirus solutions, compare their features and see what protection software suits you best.
· Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network is a piece of software that secures and privatizes data access to the internet by building an “encrypted tunnel”. When you access the web, your information passes through a tunnel, which secures it from anyone who tries to intercept it. In addition, Opera recently became the first major browser to integrate a VPN service that can help you secure your desktop web browsing sessions.
· Avoid Sideloading
Sideloading is the semi-official name for the process we mentioned before, in which you download an app to a device without going through an official app store like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. For example, you may encounter spyware via a malicious site, unwillingly downloading it onto your phone.
Web development has always been something Adam was passionate about, and it is from his passion that he’s making his living. Thanks to the vast knowledge of internet trends and its constant changes, Adam often writes popular articles for wefollowtech.com. He’s a born and raised Texan, with his residence in Dallas.