There are four main types of spyware:
- Tracking cookies
- Trojan spyware
- System monitors
Each type can create major problems for your network security. These problems might start small — your device may experience slower load times or programs may crash or freeze. As it begins to take greater hold of your device, these problems will likely worsen.
Learning to recognize each type is one of the best ways to prevent malicious code from attacking your device. Diagnosing spyware can help remove malware infections and minimize damage.
Adware is a malicious advertising program that automatically displays advertisements to users. Different types of adware work in different ways. For example, some adware only appears when you’re using a specific internet browser. In other cases, it might display ads as soon as you turn on your device.
Your device can download adware after opening a malicious message or visiting an unsecured website. The adware begins to show ads, making revenue for the advertiser or the hacker. These ads are shown without the user’s consent and often require a security process to be deactivated.
Tracking cookies are specialized cookie files that can be shared across devices or networks. The files are often used for legitimate marketing purposes or by your device to remember trusted websites.
In some cases, however, these files are used maliciously to track your browsing behavior without your consent. This occurs when files override your cookie or browser preferences and deliver your information to third parties without your knowledge or consent.
Many tracking cookies are small text files, which are more difficult for users to identify when looking for malware on their devices. These files cannot contain viruses, but hackers can use them to track your internet activity. Hackers then use your information to access personal files or data.
Trojan spyware, commonly known as a Trojan horse, is spyware that appears to be harmless. Once activated, it unleashes a payload — a set of malicious codes — that can compromise your device or your data in several ways.
Trojan spyware attempts to deceive a device user by looking like a reputable download that, once downloaded, clicked on and executed, releases the payload. It will often begin sifting through your personal information. This can include stored passwords, credit card data, images, text files and other items that could contain sensitive data.
Using your internet connection, it then delivers that information to a hacker. Hackers can also use Trojan horse spyware to download additional harmful programs to your device.
System monitors are another type of spyware. These programs track your actions while you use a device. Some system monitoring programs track keystrokes, while others might monitor your email, browsing history or a list of the programs you use.
System monitoring programs are often disguised as freeware — software that is available for download online at no cost. The downloaded program soon begins to monitor a user’s activity and delivers results to hackers.