Living in the age of Information is both a boon and a curse. Where information storage and retrieval are making our day to day tasks easier every moment, some unwanted and notorious software or applications with an aim to intercept that information are being spread. Ever since the introduction of Internet, programs like viruses, malware and other security hacks have become very common. Recent studies by NSA as well as independent agencies funded by Nortan and McAfee (leading providers of Anti-Virus Software) have shown that almost 90% of the home computers in the world have been infected with some malware or spyware. Apart from it, over 50% of the smartphones and laptops have been infected with the same as well.
A spyware is a strategically designed program that if installed in a machine can monitor all activity and eventually broadcast all information outside the network to a third party. The software can be disguised to take user permission or can get installed on the system without the permissions as well. If the system is facing slow speed, sluggish performance and unexpected application execution, it is highly likely that it has been affected by a spyware. Nowadays, spyware is a cumulative term used to address both milder adware and strong malware. The most harmful of these spywares can easily track all you Internet traffic and distribute your important as well as private information like banking details, identity documents, etc. Thus, spyware installation and execution can cause an individual or organization heavy loss of finance and important information, apart from the compromise of the internal network and associated machines.
Here, spywares have been explored by outlining-
- The intent
- The structure
- The functioning
- The Effect
- Counter measures
- Spywares- Their Intent
Cyber crimes are increasing every day and they are usually inspired by the financial gains. Spywares have a remarkable success rate as they are able to slowly take over the infected system and send any required information including saved or typed card details, passwords, private messages and more over to the hacker or interceptor. The amount of malware present on the Internet is now growing exponentially and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the growing incidents of spyware led crimes has been a mockery of the real world crime fighting tactics. Having achieved technical expertise, the hackers are combining smart learning applications with the conventional spyware codes to come up with hybrid viruses that can not only infect the system, but can also spread without getting noticed in a matter of few minutes.
- Spywares- the structure
A typical spyware is made in any of the Object oriented programming language. The spyware has a main code that is able to capture the user history as well as key log strokes of the infected machine. The second part of the spyware code is there to compress the recorded information into logs or other light files that can be sent to the attacker, breaching the privacy of the affected machine. The most dreaded part of a spyware structure is the brute force function or the bypassing loop that lets the application to execute and use your other program data without user permission.
- The functioning of a spyware from low to high
Low grade spywares are easy to make and difficult to install. They would only work as key loggers, recording key strokes and sending them over to a third party over the time. The medium spywares can also use the machine’s camera or take screenshots of the data to be sent.
Both the low grade and medium grade spywares can be detected but when it comes to the high level, the spywares become almost undetectable.
- The Effects of a spyware
Financial risk and loss have always been the motivation behind spyware attacks. Spywares compromise the victim machine and take all the data to be compressed and sent to another machine, not belonging in the same network. Spywares have also resulted in theft of personal private information that has led to several identity related crimes (especially impersonation).
- Counter Measures
Spywares are a type of malware and hence, most of the top anti viruses are pretty decent in fighting them back. However, with a high grade spyware attacking the network or already in function, there is nothing that can be done. It is recommended that the individual or organization immediately stops the use of the particular network or machine and transfer all information to a safe machine.
As a part of counter measures, it should also be noted that only applications and software with trusted certificate for sources should be installed and used to avoid unknown breach by spywares.
Spywares are some of the most dangerous malwares that have no constructive purposes. Using spyware is not only a breach and violation of privacy and integrity of an individual or organization, but it is also considered as illegal. Even though there is no sure protection against spywares and there are no specific counter measures, you can still avoid getting your system or computer network getting attacked from spyware by trusting only certified or valid sources for information and software.