Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware

Hi. Craig Peterson here with a blink into spyware.
 
To start with, the term “spyware” doesn’t refer to the Russians. It isn’t the KGB. Spyware is also known as “adware.”More specifically, it refers to software that, when installed on your computer, may send you pop-up ads, redirect your browser to certain web sites, or monitor the web sites that you visit. 
 
Some extreme spyware may record exactly what keys you type, stealing your passwords as you enter them.
 
How do you know if there is spyware on your computer?
 
Some spyware is hard to detect, but there are some general symptoms to look for:
  • Endless pop-up windows
  • You end up on websites that you didn’t want to go to
  • Unrecognized tasks showing up in the task tray at the bottom-right of your screen
  • Your browser start-up page changed, and you didn’t do it
  • Your default search engine changes, and so do your search results
  • Random Windows error messages pop up, such as anti-virus software being out-of-date
  • Your computer has just started running slowly
  • And Extra toolbars on your browser are a dead give-away that you have spyware
 
How can you prevent spyware from installing on your computer?
 
Good, Internet hygiene goes a long way to stopping spyware and other malware from being installed on your computer.
 
  • Don’t click on links within pop-up windows. 
  • Beware of unexpected dialog boxes asking whether you want to run a particular program or perform another type of task.
  • To close the pop-up window or dialog box, click on the “X” icon in the titlebar instead of a “close” link within the window.
  • There are many sites that offer customized toolbars or other real cool features. Don’t download programs from sites you don’t trust.
  • Don’t follow email links claiming to offer anti-spyware software – Like email viruses, the links may serve the opposite purpose and actually install the spyware it claims to be eliminating.
  • Adjust your browser preferences to limit pop-up windows and cookies. I recommend using uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger in your browser to protect yourself.
 
 

Does Your Computer Or Phone Have Spyware?

Is Your Data Usage Excessive?

  1. Spyware is known for using a significant amount of resources and network bandwidth 
  2. It happens because the software uses data to send out the usage data collected from your device. Unfortunately, some high-end spy apps use much less data so it may not be easy to detect

Have You had A Sudden Drop in Battery Life?

  1. Having spyware on your phone or computer will result in reduced battery life.
  2. Have you noticed your battery draining at an unusually high rate, spyware may be consuming it.
  3. Test the quality of your battery, if it is removable.

Has Your Performance Slowed?

  1. Your storage is full.
  2. Your device hardware and software isn’t capable of running many apps at one time.
  3. If you find your device is growing noticeably slower than usual, consider that it might be being remotely controlled or monitored.

Are You Having Difficulty Shutting Down or Getting Unexpected Reboots

  1. Spyware keeps running in the background, so you may find it hard to shut down your computer or phone completely. 
  2. It could reboot for no apparent reason, or without your input, a sign that someone is remotely accessing it without your permission.
  3. It is taking longer than usual for your device to close active processes and shut down.

Are you Hearing Strange Background Noises During Calls or Receiving Odd Text Messages

  1. You hear strange clicking sounds in the background, and this could mean someone is monitoring your phone.
  2. You get odd-looking text messages with strange characters. It is indicative of poor quality spying software.

Abnormal Battery Temperature

  1. Many activities could cause an increased battery temperature. If this has not been an issue before and it’s relatively warm, it could be spyware sending out usage data to other devices.

Checking For, Recognizing & Removing Spyware Installed on Your Computer Or Phone

  1. Check for spyware using the Start bar to double-check installed program lists. 
  2. No suspicious programs? Use CTRL+ALT+DEL and click Task Manager to see which processes are currently running on your computer and identify any applications that seem suspicious.
  3. Use MSConfig in the Windows search bar. Check for any software programs that appear to consume a significant amount of memory. 
  4. Terminate its process temporarily. Research it, and if you find it to be malicious, remove it from your computer.
  5. Using a Mac?, Then you need to check on all programs that are currently running on your machine by Going to Activity Monitor, select Other.
  6. Delete all suspicious files from your TEMP Folder.
  7. Run anti-spyware software. Anti-spyware software will deep-scan your computer drives to identify and remove any potential malicious threats lurking around. 
  8. If you don’t currently have one, be sure to install an anti-spyware removal tool.

Use An Android Phone: 

  1. Never allow unknown sources to download and install apps
  2. Click Settings>Biometrics and Security (or Security).
  3. Click Install unknown apps (or Allow unknown sources)
  4.  Change the app settings to ‘Not allowed.’
  5. If you suspect tampering or jailbreaking, you can go to the Google Play store and download the Root Checker app. This app will check for jailbreaking.

iPhones:

  1. It is much more challenging to install spyware or malware these devices.
  2. They are much harder to jailbreak
  3. Practice due diligence.
  4. Never leave your iPhone unattended
  5. Use the latest version of iOS. Keep iOS updated.
  6. Opt for 16 digit password or more to open your iPhone 
  7. Only use Touch ID open programs inside.
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