Spyware is unwanted software that infiltrates your computing device, stealing your internet usage data and sensitive information.

Spyware is classified as a type of malware — malicious software designed to gain access to or damage your computer, often without your knowledge. Spyware gathers your personal information and relays it to advertisers, data firms, or external users.

Spyware is used for many purposes. Usually it aims to track and sell your internet usage data, capture your credit card or bank account information, or steal your personal identity. How? Spyware monitors your internet activity, tracking your login and password information, and spying on your sensitive information.

Some types of spyware can install additional software and change the settings on your device, so it’s important to use secure passwords and keep your devices updated.

If you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud, you’re not alone. Cybercrime statistics tell the story:

  • A total of 978 million people in 20 countries were affected by cybercrime in 2017, according to Norton Cyber Security Insights Report Global Results.
  • Victims of cybercrime globally lost $172 billion.

Spyware contributed to those numbers.

Spyware is one of the most common threats on the internet. It can easily infect your device and it can be hard to identify. Spyware is a threat to businesses and individual users, since it can steal sensitive information and harm your network.

Check out our guide to help understand how spyware works, how to remove it, and how to help protect yourself or your business.

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There are four main types of spyware. Each uses unique tactics to track you.

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  • Adware. This type of spyware tracks your browser history and downloads, with the intent of predicting what products or services you’re interested in. The adware will display advertisements for the same or related products or services to entice you to click or make a purchase. Adware is used for marketing purposes and can slow down your computer.
  • Trojan. This kind of malicious software disguises itself as legitimate software. For example, Trojans may appear to be a Java or Flash Player update upon download. Trojan malware is controlled by third parties. It can be used to access sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and credit card information.
  • Tracking cookies. These track the user’s web activities, such as searches, history, and downloads, for marketing purposes.
  • System monitors. This type of spyware can capture just about everything you do on your computer. System monitors can record all keystrokes, emails, chat-room dialogs, websites visited, and programs run. System monitors are often disguised as freeware.

How Do I Get Spyware?

Spyware can affect PCs, Macs, and iOS or Android devices. Although Windows operating systems may be more susceptible to attacks, attackers are becoming better at infiltrating Apple’s operating systems as well. Some of the most common ways your computer can become infected with spyware include these:

  • Accepting a prompt or pop-up without reading it first
  • Downloading software from an unreliable source
  • Opening email attachments from unknown senders
  • Pirating media such as movies, music, or games
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How To Recognize Spyware On Your Device

Spyware can be difficult to recognize on your device. By its nature, it’s meant to be deceptive and hard to find. But there are clues that can help you identify whether you’ve been infected by spyware. You may have a spyware issue if your computer shows these symptoms.

  • Your device is slow or crashes unexpectedly.
  • Your device is running out of hard drive space.
  • You get pop-ups when you are online or offline.

How To Remove Spyware

If you think your device is infected with spyware, run a scan with your current security software to make sure it has cleaned up everything it can. Next, download and run a virus removal tool, such as the free Norton Power Eraser.

There are also other reputable anti-spyware removal tools. Some of them work only when you manually start the scan. Others continuously monitor your computer to make sure spyware can’t modify or monitor your information.