While most people are aware of the dangers of viruses and malware, fewer are familiar with the risks posed by spyware. Spyware is malicious software devised to collect information about a user without their knowledge or consent. It can track a person's online activity, steal sensitive data such as passwords and credit card numbers, or even hijack a person's webcam to spy on them.

Spyware can be installed on a person's computer without their knowledge, often through malicious email attachments or downloads from unsafe websites. Once installed, it can be tough to remove, leaving the victim vulnerable to identity theft, financial fraud, and other serious crimes.

Anyone who uses the internet should be cautious of the risks of spyware and know how to protect themselves from it. Many people are uninformed about this, but in this blog, I'm going to share tips to protect yourself from spyware on a phone and pc.

Signs Your Phone or PC Is Infected With Spyware

You might not know it, but you could be infected with spyware and not even know. Here are some signs that your phone or computer might be infected:

  • You start seeing ads for products you've recently searched for online
  • Your phone or pc starts running slowly or crashing more often than usual
  • Your battery life decreases significantly, even if you haven't been using your device heavily
  • Your microphone or webcam starts turning on by itself without your permission
  • Unexpected text messages or calls are received from people you don't know
  • Private information such as passwords, bank account numbers, or contact lists have been accessed without your knowledge
  • Photos and videos have been deleted without your knowledge
  • Your phone starts ringing unexpectedly, even if it's set to silent mode
  • Photos and videos you didn't take start showing up on your phone
  • Your text messages or calls are being forwarded to someone else
  • Apps or programs you never installed start appearing on your phone
  • Your phone or pc is overheating more than usual
  • Your internet connection is slower than normal

How to Protect Your Phone from Spyware

Your phone might seem like just another gadget to you, but it can be a goldmine for hackers and spies if you're not careful. Here's how to protect yourself from spyware and keep your data safe.

1. Only download apps from official app stores

It is integral to exercise caution when downloading apps, as some come from unofficial sources and may be malicious. Official app stores, such as those run by Apple and Google, rigorously vet the available apps for download. This helps to ensure that apps are safe to use and do not contain any malware or spyware. In addition, official app stores provide customers with a level of customer support if there are any problems with an app.

2. Enable two-factor authentication on your devices

Two-factor authentication is a relevant security measure that can help protect your online accounts from being compromised. When enabled, it requires you to enter not only your password but also a second code, typically generated by an authenticator on your smartphone, to log in. Many major online services, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, offer two-factor authentication, and it is highly recommended that you enable it on your accounts.

3. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks

Whether you're at a coffee shop, the airport, or the library, the chances are good that you'll be able to find a hotspot to connect to. One of the biggest risks in connecting to public Wi-Fi is that your data may not be encrypted. This means that anyone connected to the same network as you could potentially access your data. Additionally, public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, meaning they can be hacked into more easily than private networks. 

4. Give apps permissions with caution

You may be asked to allow an app to access specific functions or information when you install it on your phone. For example, a camera app may request permission to access your camera, while a game may request permission to access your location.

It's important to be cautious about giving apps permissions, as they can use this information in ways that you might not expect. An app with access to your camera could take pictures without your knowledge, while an app with access to your location could track your movements.

How to Protect Your PC from Spyware

Your computer is like a personal assistant, storing all your contacts, files, and photos. So, it's no wonder that cybercriminals target PCs with spyware to steal your information. Luckily, there are initiatives you can take to protect your PC from spyware and other malware. Read on to learn more about it.

1. Avoid downloading pirated software or music

When you download pirated software or music, you're not just breaking the law—you're also putting your computer at risk. That's because pirated software and music often come bundled with spyware, giving hackers access to your personal information. Even if you're able to remove the spyware, it may have already sent sensitive information like your bank account login or social security number to the hackers.

If you do accidentally download pirated content, make sure to run a spyware scan as soon as possible.

2. Do not open suspicious links or attachments

One of the common ways to spread spyware is through email attachments or links. Hackers will send out emails with infected attachments or links to malicious websites in an attempt to infect your computer. Do not click on just about any links or download attachments if you receive an email from someone you don't know or if the email appears suspicious.

3. Test your webcam and microphone regularly

If you have a webcam or microphone attached to your computer, it's important to test them regularly to make sure they're not being used without your knowledge. One way is to open your webcam or microphone settings and look for any programs with access to them. If you see any programs you don't recognize; they may be spyware.

A few software programs can help you test your webcam and microphone, such as VEED Test Your Webcam.

4. Scan your computer for spyware occasionally

Even if you're careful about the links and attachments you click on, it's still a good idea to occasionally scan your computer for spyware. There are many free spyware removal tools available online, so there is no excuse not to run a scan from time to time. When you do find spyware on your computer, be sure to remove it immediately to reduce the risk of being hacked.

Several free and paid spyware removal programs are available, such as Spybot Search & Destroy.

5. Keep your operating system and software up-to-date

One of the ways to protect your computer from spyware is to keep your operating system and software up-to-date. That's because developers often release updates that patch security holes hackers can exploit. So, if you do not have the latest version of Windows or macOS, you could be leaving your computer vulnerable to attack.

You should also make sure that the software you're using is up-to-date. For example, if you're using an old version of Adobe Reader, hackers could potentially exploit a security hole to install spyware on your computer. So, it's important to keep all of the software on your computer up-to-date.

You can usually update your operating system and software by opening the Settings app (for Windows) or System Preferences (for macOS) and checking for updates.

Wrapping It Up

As technology evolves, so does the ability for people to spy on your computer and phone activities. So, how can you safeguard yourself from spyware? We've outlined some tips to help you stay safe and keep your pc and phone privacy. And by taking these precautions, you can help to keep your computer safe from treacherous attacks.

Have you ever been a spyware victim? What tips do you have to share?