29 Dec 2016
When people think of hackers, they think of greasy people stuck to a computer in dark basements all over the world. They think the same thing of the programs hackers use to disrupt people’s lives. Underground. Dirty. Easy to spot as something dangerous.
But that’s simply not what all hackers and hacking software look like. In fact, you can find some hacking software on the Google Play store. And not just apps that Google will find and take down, but legitimate apps that regular people download every day.
We’re talking about spyware of course.
Spyware is a form of hacking that’s become so common there is a legitimate market for it today. It’s any type of software that gathers user data without the victim knowing. That could mean transactions, website history, and even location. Those open market spyware apps we were talking about earlier are on the Google Play market to track the location of a device.
In most cases, that means a person downloads a spyware app on someone else’s device and sends that data to their own device. But spyware isn’t just being used by parents trying to find out where their kids are. It’s being used by hackers right now to work around security measures like passwords and two-step verification to access sensitive information. Your financial login credentials, your patient’s medical records, and even your location is vulnerable. Spyware has many ugly faces, but if you keep reading we’ll show you a few ways you can tell if you’re being watched.
On a tablet or phone, one of the easiest ways you can check for spyware is by doing an app audit. It may sound too simple to be effective, but think about it, do you really know what every app on your device does or how it got there? Do you know the difference between apps that the phone comes with and ones that it didn’t? If you don’t, one of the easiest ways to clear your device is by simply checking every app in your phone and making sure you know why it’s there.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that simple, though. Spyware can be hidden in ways other than apps, which means you have to know other identifiers. If your device is unusually warm or loses battery quickly, you could have spyware running under the surface. And if you want to be extra cautious, you can download apps like Anti Spy from the app store to scan your phone for Android devices.
Spyware doesn’t just apply to mobile devices, though. On a computer, spyware can take many more forms. For example, hackers can set up devices that will sniff the signal a wireless keyboard sends to a computer, read the keystrokes, and discover login credentials for sensitive information. But Spyware doesn’t just target keystrokes. It can collect data on just about anything. What sites you visit, what you do one those sites and how long you do it, what programs you run, and how you access them. There really is no limit you what Spyware can monitor and send off on a computer. If you want to check to see if spyware is running on your computer, you can basically do what you did for a mobile device. Find any programs you don’t recognize running on your CPU and get rid of them. You can also check the ports in your firewall to see if any are transferring data out.
Unfortunately, these steps won’t guarantee that you are spyware free. However, they will set you, and your sensitive data, a step above most people and organizations, and when a hacker is looking for an easy target that could make a world of difference.