Here's Looking At You (and your data): What Is Spyware?

Summary: This 3-minute article discusses the different types of spyware everyone needs to know about. Learn how to remove spyware. Then, for additional expert IT consulting services, contact GEEK-AID Computer and Network Support at to explore the best comprehensive business IT solutions for your small to midsized business.

Nobody likes being spied on. Even someone looking over our shoulder can feel like an invasion of our personal space. But, in the cyber-connected world, some bad actors are constantly finding ways to monitor, manipulate and steal your private data. Spyware attacks are usually part of the digital dark side of advertising, monitoring your online purchases, activities and preferences and directing you to other websites.

Spyware is not a James Bond gadget used for espionage, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, it is used by advertisers and is also called adware. Adware is a type of software that, once installed on a computer, can proactively redirect you to other, possibly malicious websites, force a barrage of pop-up ads to appear seemingly out of nowhere and monitor the user’s web browser activities. The most nefarious examples of adware can log what keystrokes you’ve hit on your computer and capture your most private data, including credit card numbers, bank accounts, login credentials and many other categories of your personal information.

How Can I Tell If Spyware Is On My Computer?

Before you can remove spyware, you must recognize the symptoms. Here are some signs that you may have fallen victim to spyware:

Adware installations are sometimes challenging to detect. However, rootkit viruses take spyware to a much more deadly level. Rootkit viruses allow bad actors to hijack control of a computer system (at the operating system level) with all its files and functions without the user knowing. Rootkits can be installed via a click on an innocent-looking email download or an infected application. So again, “Think before your click!” The good news is that your anti-virus program can run a rootkit scan.

What Is A Rootkit Scan?

Rootkit scans are performed through anti-virus programs. However, the only sure way to detect the presence of rootkits is to run the scan from a computer with a clean system. Otherwise, the cybercriminal can be tipped off and circumvent or compromise the scan. In the worst cases, rootkit viruses might only be removed by reinstalling your system software.

What Are Cookies On A Computer and Why You Should Care About Them?

Cookies are files with small amounts of text that share your computer’s identity with your computer network. However, HTTP cookies contain user browsing history and other data related to your online behavior. They are meant to enhance a user’s browsing experience by remembering certain identifying and behavioral data about them, making browsing more personalized, faster and more efficient. However, if compromised and in the wrong hands, identifying data stored in cookies can be breached by cyber thieves and used to hack into users’ bank accounts, credit cards, payroll and many other personal and financial platforms. To lessen the chances of data being stolen through cookies, it is wise to regularly delete cookies in your browser. Clearing browsing history and cookies is part of essential IT maintenance.

Spyware that generates pop-up advertisements is one of its most benign forms. However, hackers can compromise all of a user’s personal data, and the user might not know about it until it’s too late. Network cyber security is vital to your privacy and your identity. If you are not computer savvy, you should enlist the services of IT professionals to help you defend your system against all cyberattacks.