Spyware – what is that virus?

Spyware can correctly be described as a malware type that hunts your personal data. It deals pretty low damage to your PC, but can make a lot of unpleasant things to your privacy. Spyware is often disguised as some legitimate programs, such as parental control tools or family trackers.

Why is personal data so valuable?

Personal data is anything that pertains to your personal identity. It is very valuable, as personal data can be sold to third parties. Every Internet user in this world is affected by the trade of personal information, from people uploading their pictures on social networks to people talking about their own experiences at online parties. It may be used to deliver personalized ads, or to advertise you something directly – by emails or by phone calls. In rare cases, a set of your personal information may be used to counterfeit your identity for bank payments1.

Spyware hunts personal data

The diagram which displays the personal data which spyware aims at

Besides selling your data to third parties in the Darknet, you may fall victim to account hijacking. Spyware may steal your logins and passwords in different ways: by just taking it from the unsecured login form, as well as through phishing websites. This or another way, you may be in a very unpleasant situation. Crooks who deliver spyware, or persons who bought the stolen data, can log into your account and perform whatever they want. They can even try to completely hijack the account by changing the password – some of the social networks still allow it without any confirmations.

What data types are exposed?

First of all, spyware tracks your location, phone number, email addresses you use, and, possibly, the PC configuration. Unfortunately, spyware can also retrieve a lot of very sensitive information about you, such as your home address, the bank accounts you have, the names of your children, your husband or wife and their ages, the health conditions you have, your interests, even the contents of your journals or the names of your contacts. It can also record your keystrokes, your clicks, and mouse movements.

How do spyware programs work?

A common tactic is to disguise the original application as something much more useful. The obvious place to start is to serve as trackers for social networking services. The first place where spyware displays its false identity is usually by using the Facebook mobile application. Sometimes, these types of mobile applications will behave so well, that they actually confuse the user. They may look almost like real social networking applications. In case when it has such a disguise, user gives his personal info himself. Chatting with strangers somewhy makes the users too talkative.

Spyware how it works

On the other hand, this may be an attempt to find as much information as possible, as even the most well-designed application can include spyware. Usually, the false identity of the application includes the string “Facebook,” which will make you connect it to a Facebook account. From there, it can get worse.

Spyware can deliver malicious programs

The biggest risk of spying programs is their ability to make you vulnerable to malware. Malware programs can attach themselves to your computer, upload additional malware and send it out to your friends, family, colleagues or the people you have talked to online.

Spyware can easily weaken the system security elements in process of its activity. Then, crooks inject a payload of different malware. That usually happens when they understand that they will not get more valuable data from you. This scheme is used not only by spyware – adware distributors and PUP developers also exploit such a trick. The less time you give them on thinking – the less is the chance to get nuked by ransomware.

Why do people use spyware?

One of the reasons people use spyware is to keep tabs on their competitors, their wives or just people they need information about. In most cases, the people they are spying for are not very rich. However, users may prefer to keep up with the status of their competitors, but not pay to do so. Also, the act of spying is not about protecting your reputation but getting additional information. So even though most of us may not be cheating on our partners, it’s not difficult to understand that people will use spyware to keep track of important persons.

How can I remove spyware from my computer?

Spyware removal is not a simple process. Besides the removal of this virus, you also need to ensure that your credentials are not compromised. Since writing to crooks and asking something like “did you steal my passwords?” is likely pointless, the only way to ensure that your accounts will not be used is to change all passwords you have to the new ones. And when it comes to the exact removal of the virus, you need to stop the malware first. Spyware is a very “clever” malware – it can easily forbid the antivirus program installator to run. By the way, the same trick is used in ransomware. To stop the spying malware, switch your system into a Safe Mode with Networking.

Reboot your Windows in Safe Mode with Networking

Don’t be afraid of its name – it is just a specific Windows mode2. In this mode, your system does not launch all startup apps, and also the vast majority of services. Hence, the ransomware will not be able to stop your attempts to remove it. Press the Start button, then Power, and choose Reboot while holding the Shift button on your keyboard. That will turn on the Troubleshooting mode.

Reboot PC in the Safe Mode

After booting into the Troubleshooting screen, pic the Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> Startup Settings. There, you need to press the key on your keyboard that corresponds to the number of Safe Mode with Networking options. It differs from one Windows version to another, so I cannot predict which one it will be in your case.

Reboot into Safe Mode with Networking

Remove spyware with GridinSoft Anti-Malware

Now, when the computer is launched without any malware running in the background, you are good to download the removal tool. My choice for ransomware removal is GridinSoft Anti-Malware3. That anti-virus tool is able to deal with spyware in less than 10 minutes, and recover the system elements that malware changed during its activity.

Download and install GridinSoft Anti-Malware. After the installation, you can activate a free 6-day trial period, in which all functions of a licensed program will be available for you. Specify your email and check it for the activation key.

When you activated the free trial, launch the Full scan. It will check each corner of your system, so the spyware would not be able to hide.

Scan GridinSoft Anti-Malware

When the scan is finished, click the Clean Up button to remove the virus from your PC. It will take less than 10 seconds.

Clean Now GridinSoft Anti-Malware

  1. Read more about possible consequences of data breaches.
  2. Official Microsoft guide at booting into the Safe Mode
  3. Our review on GridinSoft Anti-Malware