Stalker – a person who illegally follows or watches someone over a period of time usually to talk advantage of them.
Most of us are aware of how stalkers work. But as we are adapting to the progressing digital age, the stalkers have levelled up too. Now they reside on the internet and are better known as cyberstalkers. These offenders easily track their victims’ online activities and collect sensitive data using spyware. And most of the time, the target has no idea that they are being monitored.
Spyware is usually planted in your computer without your permission or knowledge. Have you ever clicked on an intriguing clickbait ad or link and were bombarded with pop-up windows? Or has this action led your browser to open a string of unsavoury sites? Or maybe you installed a free download, and now your computer is suddenly sluggish? There is a possibility that you are a victim of cyberstalking and you don’t even know it! A cyberstalker can plant a spyware in your system to track your online movement. It runs in the background, harvests sensitive information, and transfers it to identity thieves. This may lead to abuse of your passwords, usernames, credit card numbers, personal messages and more. In fact, in many cases, a cyberstalker can embed spyware for webcam hacking and record everything without your knowledge or consent. It can also be misused by attempting to embarrass, harass, exploit, or dox you.
Hence, for your privacy and safety from such unwelcome software, taking precautions and proactive security measures are necessary.
How to Avoid Spyware
- Be careful about what you download and from where you download it. If you really need the software, do a background check about the team behind the technology and the technology itself.
- Read licensing agreements. Don’t click “I agree” carelessly when installing freeware. Look out for language pertaining to information-gathering activities.
- Don’t fall for “anti-spyware” scams. The internet is full of “anti-spyware” tools that may actually make matters worse. They may falsely claim to have found hundreds of spyware programs on your computer when you run their free scan tools. And then when you try to fix it, they immediately ask you to buy their fraudulent products.
- Be cautious of clickable ads. They may seem interesting, but are designed to lure you in. Flashy clickable ads are a huge red flag as it is highly likely someone is trying to track how you respond to it.
- Do not open emails from unknown addresses. Phishing and spoofing are two security threats that often try to get you to open links that may plant spyware easily.
- Beware of malicious apps. It would be best if you always steered clear of downloading/installing apps from websites or messages instead of the App Store or GooglePlay. These may access your emails and other personal information without seeking permission.
How to Know If You Have Spyware on Your Device
Spyware can snoop on our daily online activities and collect personal data whilst staying out of our sight. However, there are a few clues that you can look out for to discern if spyware has infected your device. If your system shows the following symptoms, it may be cause for concern:
- The device slows down or crashes unexpectedly
- The device has run out of hard drive space
- You receive pop-ups, no matter if you are online or offline
How to Get Rid of Spyware?
Spyware can be more than just a nuisance. It can keep working in the background, dominate the resources of your computer, and can bring down your entire system. A slow computer is especially annoying for home office users. Moreover, dealing with harmful spyware just to enjoy freeware isn’t a fair trade-off.
To protect privacy online, you should always have security software guarding your system. If you suspect that your device has been infected with spyware, run a complete scan on your current security software and clean any malware detected. Then, download a virus removal tool and launch it to clear out any remaining malware. Make use of reputable anti-spyware removal tools for future security concerns.
As for damage control, you should inform your business/enterprise and financial institutions and consider freezing your credit card(s) (if they were compromised). Apart from this, alerting law enforcement about the breaches can help you and protect others from cyberstalkers.
Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.