Regardless of what pieces of data a spyware program is able to capture, you can almost be certain it will always be abused. But spyware infections have other dangerous consequences, too, like negatively impacting system and network performance which can disrupt the normal productivity of an individual or business. Because of its wide-ranging effects across the digital spectrum, Spyware is often classified into four (4) main types: Trojans, adware, tracking cookies and system monitors. But these classifications often intertwine, proving that something so chaotic is difficult to organize, much less contain.
Trojans are arguably the most common of the four types. Like malware, they infect each computer they encounter, resulting in erratic functionality and impaired visual experiences (i.e., excessive windows, strange desktop icons, etc). Adware, on the other hand, is designed to monitor a computer or mobile device by placing a tracking cookie on its hard drive. This is done to trail a user’s online activity, in hopes that one of the sites visited will be aware of the hidden tracking cookie.
System monitors typically make their way onto your computer by attaching themselves to other programs a user intentionally downloads and installs. Again, this is usually done discretely, but there are cases in which the desired software package will include fine print about spyware (without using this actual term) in the end user license agreement (EULA). Some packages might even force a user to consent before the desired software can be installed and used.
Other times, system monitors are installed when a user visits a compromised website, or when they open a malicious attachment inside an email. Once infected with spyware, one (1) of two (2) things usually occur. The first one is the exposure of valuable data, which could potentially lead to identity theft. The creation of an alternate or similar identity can be easily constructed just by utilizing your name, email accounts, social media profiles and other data.
The second thing that happens is the gradual destruction of your hardware. Spyware can affect the speed of your computer, and can even cause crashes and freezes. This is due to the excessive number of pop-up and pop-under windows invoked. Valuable computing power is consumed, which in turn, causes your computer to overheat. The resulting damage can be permanent.
But one impact often overlooked is spyware’s rootkit-like ability to manipulate search engine results and deliver unwanted and potentially harmful websites which could inflict even more damage. The best way of preventing all forms of spyware is to take preventative action. It isn’t likely that a user will stop downloading and installing free software or even clicking email attachments which appear to be safe. And as long as Internet connections persist, users will always be prone to spyware infections.
This is why reliable anti-virus (AV) and security software is a must. Many of these programs are shipped with virtual encrypted keyboards, strong anti-spam filters and cloud-based detection. But remain cautious as you shop for the right anti-virus app, as some utilities appear to be legit but are actually spyware programs in disguise! For help choosing the right anti-virus app for your computer or mobile device, be sure to check out our vast collection of product reviews.