Nervous about spyware? Here's how to protect yourself

·3-min read

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Know the warning signs of spyware on your devices. (Photo: Getty)
Know the warning signs of spyware on your devices. (Photo: Getty)

What is spyware — and how can you protect yourself?

You may have heard about the controversial Pegasus spyware in the news, which reportedly hacked thousands of iPhones across the globe, without users even realizing that their smartphones had been infiltrated. So what, exactly, is spyware in general and how can you protect yourself and your devices?

Spyware is unwanted software that takes over your computing device, steals your sensitive information and internet usage data, and can be classified as a type of malware. Spyware is a form of malicious software that can steal your passwords and credit card numbers, or even capture your personal identity.

Here are some signs your computer might have a spyware problem:

  • Your devices crash unexpectedly or are slower than usual

  • The hard drive on your device has run out of space

  • Pop-ups appear whether you are online or offline

So what can you do? Using secure passwords and keeping your devices updated can help since some types of spyware can install additional software and change your device's settings. Also, change your password regularly and alert your bank to any suspicious activity.

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Your data can find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. (Photo: Getty)
Your data can find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. (Photo: Getty)

Your data, on the open market

With the rise of cybercriminals mining personal information, data brokers are on the rise. Data brokers are "any business that makes the majority of their revenue from sales of data about individuals that they don't directly interact with themselves,” Rob Shavell, co-founder and chief executive officer of the cybersecurity firm DeleteMe, tells Yahoo Life.

However, it’s important to note that data brokering isn’t illegal, as much of the information can be found through public records, credit reports, and street photos.

“Data brokers collect and sell private data on approximately 97 percent of U.S. adults, according to Abine’s [an online privacy company] recent estimates,” Shavell says. “The more data-points available, and the more ways data can be cross-referenced, the more valuable profiles become, and the more privacy concerns arise.”

How to maintain more privacy online

Installing antivirus software like Norton Security Online helps provide your system with top-tier protection from viruses, spyware, malware, and cyber threats. The Norton Antivirus software stack provides protection against the latest viruses, ransomware and malware attacks before they reach your device.

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

There are other steps you can take to protect yourself. Don’t open emails from unknown senders — and if you happen to open a suspicious email, don’t click any links. Only download files from trustworthy sources, and don’t click on pop-up ads.

In addition, think twice before using open Wi-Fi. In spite of the encryption on our phones and tablets, we frequently use open wireless networks that are easily hacked and can be used for monitoring.

Also, log out more often. Social media and shopping websites, for example, often ask if you want to remain logged in. The answer should be no — and here's why: Sure, it's convenient, but the truth is that it can make your information vulnerable to hackers. So be sure to log out of any online services to prevent hackers from potentially accessing your personal information.

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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