Nervous about spyware? How to protect your devices – and yourself

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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 has allegedly been hacked thousands of iPhones around the world, without users even realizing that their smartphones were 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 computer 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 that your computer may have a spyware problem:

  • Your devices crash unexpectedly or are slower than usual

  • There is not enough space on your device’s hard drive

  • Pop-ups appear whether you are online or offline

So what can you do? Using secure passwords and keeping your devices up to date can help, as some types of spyware can install additional software and change your device’s settings. Also change your password regularly and warn your bank about suspicious activity.

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

Your data could end up in the hands of cyber criminals.  (Photo: Getty)

Your data could end up in the hands of cyber criminals. (Photo: Getty)

Your data, on the free market

With the rise of cyber criminals who mine personal information, data brokers are on the rise. Data brokers are “any company that derives the majority of its revenue from selling data on individuals with whom they have no direct contact,” Rob Shavell, co-founder and chief executive officer of the cybersecurity company remove me, tells Yahoo Life.

However, it is important to note that data brokerage is not illegal as much of the information can be found through public records, credit reports and street photos.

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

How to maintain more privacy online

Install antivirus software such as Norton Security Online helps provide your system with top-notch protection against viruses, spyware, malware, and cyber threats. The Norton Antivirus Software Stack protects 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 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

There are other steps you can take to protect yourself. Do not open emails from unknown senders – and if you open a suspicious email, do not click on links. Only download files from trusted sources and do not click on pop-up ads.

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

Also log out more often. For example, social media and shopping websites often ask if you want to stay logged in. The answer should be no – and here’s why: Sure, it’s useful, but the truth is, it can leave your information vulnerable to hackers. So make sure to log out of all online services to prevent hackers from potentially accessing your personal information.

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

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