What is Spyware?

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By DeVry University

September 1, 2022
5 min read

Spyware is a specific type of malware that attackers often use to gain access to private information on a targeted computer. The information can then be used to commit fraud, blackmail victims or execute other cybercrimes. As a result, spyware presents a major threat to both individuals and organizations.

Thankfully, there are ways to defend against spyware attacks. But before you can defend against spyware, you need to understand its impacts and know how to recognize it. In this article, we’ll cover these topics and more in the following sections:

What is Spyware Used For?

Spyware is typically used to gain access to private information. Spyware can be used to infect your computer and crawl through your private data to steal information like passwords, email address or financial information like credit card numbers.

When installed on a company-owned device, spyware can be used to access private databases with large amounts of personal information and can harm companies in multiple ways, from leaking company secrets to industry competitors or providing access to other bad actors.

What are the Impacts of Spyware?

The impacts of spyware range from something as simple as slowing down a computer, to something as debilitating as a stolen identity. In the corporate world, one computer infected by spyware can snag access to huge networks and databases, which could in turn compromise a whole company.

In a worst-case scenario, spyware could cause a data breach that affects the company’s products, services or even their customer’s security, resulting in a loss of trust in the company as a whole. Even if a breach doesn’t lead to any stolen data, customers still may have to go through the hassle of getting new credit cards, resetting passwords or changing email addresses.

Grappling with the effects of spyware can also be costly. According to a report by IBM, a breach of data security costs a company about $3.86 million, on average. Expenses such as these may be a contributing factor to companies bolstering their security efforts.

The good news is that there may be great opportunities for those interested in getting into this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analyst roles are projected to grow by 33% on a national level, much faster than the national average1. If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in online security and are interested in learning many of the cyber security tools and techniques used by professionals, explore some of the cyber security programs we have to offer at DeVry.

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How to Combat Spyware

There are several ways to combat spyware and keep yourself safe from these kinds of attacks, including:

  • Only downloading files from places you can verify and trust.
  • Avoid interacting with pop-up ads.
  • Double-checking the URL before downloading anything from a website. Cyber attackers often use similar-looking URLs to trick people into clicking on a bad link.
  • Keeping your operating system (OS) and antivirus software up to date.
  • Not clicking on links or attachments in emails from senders you don’t recognize. This is called phishing.
  • Enabling two-factor authentication on your devices or accounts where available.
  • Only downloading applications from your phone’s official app store.
  • Installing an ad or pop-up blocker on your web browser.

Online attackers are tricky and tactics are changing rapidly. If you click on a bad link and infect your computer or mobile device with spyware, you still have options.

Here are a few ways to locate and combat spyware on your device:

  1. Cut your internet connection.
  2. Search your programs list for any programs you did not personally install and try to remove them.
  3. Run a system scan with antivirus.
  4. Utilize a spyware removal tool.

Following these steps should help remove spyware from your computer, but if you’re still concerned, visit a specialist who can walk you through your options for removing spyware from your devices or tell you if your data has been compromised.

Learn How to Combat Spyware at DeVry

Spyware and other malware pose a major threat to privacy and safety on the internet. If learning how to protect information and combat cybercrime sounds like the right fit for you, take a look at our cybersecurity certificate and degree programs, including our Bachelor’s Degree Specializations in Cyber Security or our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security. Classes start every 8 weeks and can be completed 100% online.

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm

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