Spyware: A Comprehensive Protection Guide

Since the inception of the internet, bad actors have taken advantage of security holes for criminal purposes. Consequently, spyware is one of the oldest and most common threats that we all face on the internet.  The following article defines what is spyware, the removal of spyware, and any steps relating to spyware removal and basically doing an online privacy checklist and keeping safe.

What Is Spyware?

Spyware is software that is undesired, entering your computer for the purpose of destructive intentions, or another way to explain it is what is spyware along with the removal of spyware.

Furthermore, you may not even know that it’s present on your computer.

What Does Spyware Do?

What is spyware?

Spyware steals your sensitive information, collects your Internet data, and damages your computer. Spyware can then take your collected personal information and use it for a number of purposes, including advertising. Your sensitive information like passwords and bank account information are also vulnerable in the presence of spyware. As a result, having spyware installed can lead to credit card fraud, destroyed accounts, or even personal identity theft.

Furthermore, spyware is a pervasive form of malicious software that seeks to steal victims' personal data and use it for nefarious purposes. It infects your computer or mobile device and collects a myriad of data about you and your internet browsing habits. To clarify, this can include your username and password, things you upload and download, credit card information, and more.

Good spyware is elusive and hard to erase from our device. Consequently, it can be quite difficult to detect a spyware program running on your computer. Furthermore, it slides under your nose and quietly attaches itself to your system.

So while you browse, watch Netflix, or play games, the spyware program will be there, so it is a good idea to apply tips for protecting privacy online.

How Is Spyware Installed

According to the AV Test Institute, 3.5 new kinds of malware are detected each second. Malware and spyware is a rampant problem, especially given how it's installed without users' knowledge.  The point of spyware, and the problem with it, is that the software is  intentionally designed to gain access to your technology without you knowing. It's crucial to be aware of spyware's gateways so that you have the best chance of blocking this malicious software.

Spyware infects your system in the same way as any other type of malicious software. In short, see below for a handful of techniques that hackers use to install spyware on unsuspecting devices.

An eye spying through a computer


Phishing involves an action by a user that "allows" software installation on the user's device. To clarify, this typically involves clicking a link on a spammy website or opening an infected email attachment. Called phishing because your device is the fish and the hackers are the fishermen. When they send you an email with a spyware attachment, they are "fishing" for you to open it.

Phishing lures you into clicking a corrupted link through a website or an email sent to your account and is explained further in how to avoid email phishing scams. This is another reason why it’s important to never click on a link that you have received in an email, which isn't from a trusted source.  Besides the potential for hacking, downloading this harmful content is a real possibility.

Deceptive Advertisements

Another technique is when hackers advertise their spyware programs as useful tools. Be wary of terms such as "download manager" or "hard drive cleanser." They are simple tricks to get you to install the spyware. Even if you delete the program after downloading, the spyware remains on your device.

Finding free software on the Internet might seem like a win, but it’s more likely a scam. Creators of spyware can display their programs as a free software bundle that you simply can’t live without. Downloading their “essential” software can actually introduce spyware hidden in the rest of the bundle. Even deleting the original software won’t rid you of it once it’s on your computer.

Vulnerabilities and Backdoors

This one doesn't involve any action on your part. Every device or system has certain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Cybercriminals are adept at finding vulnerabilities and backdoors to exploit and install spyware.

If your computer’s security is not up to date, the safety of your entire device is at risk. Spyware can enter through vulnerable software and gain unauthorized access to your computer. Even with the most up to date security, though, an occasional bug can get through.  One solution is running frequent security checks on your computer to help prevent this and eliminate any exploitable areas of software.


A Trojan is simply malware that pretends to be something that it's not. Like the Trojan horse, it tricks you to get into the gates of your system. But once it enters your computer system, it gains control and has the ability to manipulate files and delete data. It's difficult to detect and remove.


Once spyware is installed, it can also slow down your computer, and is further explained in our article malware vs spyware.  Subsequently, spyware takes up memory space, requires more processing time, and alters your Windows registry.  It’s possible to manually browse your registry file to look for it, but you should take extreme caution prior to making any changes since the wrong change to the registry can disable Windows.

The destructive software makes these unwanted changes to your computer without your knowledge, which makes it harder to figure out the problem and get rid of the software.

Spyware vs. Malware in Simple Terms

If you’re new to learning about spyware, you may have also heard the term malware. While these two terms sound like they could be interchangeable, they aren’t quite the same thing and once again, further explained in our article malware vs spyware.  Malware is a broad term for any malicious software that infiltrates a computer.

Spyware is a specific kind of malware that infiltrates your computer without your knowledge. It tracks data about the system and users. Neither are good, but often any antivirus software will take care of all known cases of both spyware and malware for you.

Spyware Types

Cybercriminals have different targets, and thus, there are different types of spyware to target different types of data. See below for a summary of the different types:

  • KeyloggersThese designed programs capture all of the keystrokes on your keyboard as you browse the internet. But in addition to keystrokes, they can also detect your website visits, emails (sent and received), credentials, and more. Essentially, it's as if the hacker were sitting next to you watching your every movement on your computer or phone.
  • Infostealers. These programs scan devices to find information held in the files. This includes username and passwords, email addresses, browsing history, documents media files, and more. Think of allowing a hacker free reign to look in all of your file folders.
  • Password stealers. This type of program is designed specifically to steal passwords (system credentials, store passwords on web browsers, and more).

Stalkerware is another type of spyware that consists of any kind of spyware that monitors a person without their consent or knowledge.

How to Detect

This kind of malware is by its nature very difficult to recognize. It is designed to be deceptive and difficult to find. That being said, follow these clues to help you identify it on your device:

  • Slow or unreliable device. If your device shows a noticeable slow-down or started to crash unexpectedly, you may have spyware.
  • Running out of space. If your device is unexpectedly low on storage, this may be a warning sign.
  • Incessant pop-ups. New and unfamiliar pop-ups, both online and on your desktop, are an indication of spyware.

Simple Steps for Removal of Spyware

If you think your device might be infected, follow these steps in the removal of spyware.

  1. If you do not already have a cybersecurity program installed on your device, get one. There are many reputable free options out there. Once you have it installed, run it. It will clean up your system and initiate the removal of spyware installed on your device.
  2. If you think any of your account information has been stolen, contact your accounts, especially your banking institutions.
  3. If the stolen information includes any media such as images, audio, or video, you should contact your local law-enforcement authorities.
  4. Depending on the nature of the attack, it may be a good idea to freeze your credit.

How to Prevent Spyware

Like Smokey Bear says, only you can protect yourself from attacks. Follow these four steps:

  1. Don't open emails from unknown senders and learn how to avoid email phishing scams.
  2. Don't download files from suspicious sources.
  3. Never click pop-up ads. If you must, mouse over the link first to make sure it is taking you to the right webpage.
  4. Use a reputable cybersecurity program and regularly run it to keep your device healthy.

Consider using real-time protection when you are looking for cybersecurity programs. This type of protection blocks spyware and other malware threats in real-time before they can get access to your information.

Although you can still get rid of unwanted software once it enters your computer system, it’s better to prevent the problem. There are several ways to keep your computer safe.  First, download a trustworthy antivirus or anti-spyware security program. This will help you stay on top of potential security threats.

Another simple task to do is keep your computer system up to date.  Don't continually delay updates. Try setting up automatic updates so you don’t need to worry about remembering to manually update your computer.

Within your browser, configure your security settings to allow for maximum protection and security. Don’t click on any popup ads or suspicious links on social media or in emails. These are a threat to your computer’s security.


All types of harmful software are a real threat to your personal online safety and your computer’s security. Make sure to keep on top of your device’s protection to give yourself the best chance at prevention.  If you follow these tips, you should be able to keep yourself safe.  As you have read there are many types of malware across the internet as well as different forms of spyware. This information can overwhelming. Don't fret, as you've read, you can easily rid of spyware with antivirus software and removal tool to help keep your devices safe.