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Spyware Protection (Anti-Spyware)

Spyware Protection Spyware is, mercifully, precisely what it sounds like: software that spies on you. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that’s merciful about it. Let’s drill down a bit on what it can do, and how spyware protection can help keep it out of your life.

Spyware comes in many forms, because there are many ways your computer and smartphone can capture information about you.

For example, your keystrokes can be intercepted and forwarded to criminals – including critically important keystrokes such as passwords. That’s what keylogger spyware does.

Keyloggers have been around for decades. In fact, the old Soviet Union built keyloggers that could track keystrokes on typewriters, years before U.S. government employees used computers. Keyloggers might be hardware: for instance, physical overlays placed inside a computer keyboard. But these days you’re far likelier to encounter keylogger software. (Like the malware one fired system administrator used to capture logins from his former colleagues in the office of a U.S. Senator. Or the malware students have used to capture school system credentials, change grades, and steal forthcoming exams.)

Is someone listening?

Nowadays, most devices have microphones: when they’re activated, they can hear and record you. Chances are you carry your smartphone almost everywhere. If someone successfully planted eavesdropping software, they could listen to you virtually at will.

Last year, there were reports that the Ukrainian government was attacked with malware which did just that. And in 2017, the SonicSpy malware embedded itself into thousands of Android apps – including a few that briefly made it into the official Google Play store. Strikingly, ordinary people can actually buy eavesdropping malware online – products sometimes marketed as tools for spying on lovers, children, or employees (and might be legal if the victims explicitly consent – a big if, of course!).

Or possibly watching

The aforementioned SonicSpy could also take photos with your phone’s camera. And a hacker who controls your laptop’s webcam could use it to continually capture still photos or video of you – explaining why Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg covers his webcam with black tape.

In one high-profile case, a computer science student was sentenced to 18 months in federal prisonfor spying on Miss Teen USA and 150 other women via their webcams. In another, one spy-on-your-lover app;stored thousands of the intimate images and audio recordings it had captured on a publicly-accessible database, connected to caller records that could’ve been used to put names to the bodies.

Snooping spyware

Spyware might also be used to search your computer for files that are already there – images, contact lists, passwords, and so forth. They might take screen captures, showing a hacker what you’re working on. They might track your location via your smartphone’s GPS. And, of course, they might track the websites you visit, though plenty of allegedly “legitimate” companies do that nowadays. (We recently offered some suggestions about how to protect yourself against this form of legal tracking for advertising targeting.)

What are the elements of effective spyware protection?

  • First, use modern anti-malware software such as Sophos Home Premium, which can also recognize dangerous software by how it behaves, not just the code it contains.
  • Don’t share passwords, and don’t leave your devices unattended: it’s easier for someone to install spyware if they have the physical device.
  • Don’t use unsecured public hotspots where it’s easier for hackers to evade security and install spyware remotely.
  • Protect your mobile devices — for example, with the free Sophos Mobile Security for Android.
  • Restrict smartphone app downloads to official stores. They aren’t perfect, but they’re usually safer than unofficial alternatives.
  • Finally, check your installed apps to make sure there aren’t any you don’t recognize, and you aren’t giving apps more access than they need. (Why does that flashlight app want to read your contacts, anyhow?)

Spyware is a form of malware that is installed on a computer without the user's knowledge in order to collect information about them. Protection from spyware is an integral feature of Sophos Home. When Sophos Home sees intruders using spying techniques or using a spyware tool, it stops the attack. Sophos Home is 100% Checkmark-certified for spyware detection.

Sophos Home Free includes a free 30-day trial of Premium plus an immediate Advanced Malware Removal to thoroughly clean your computer of any current malware infections.

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