What Is Spyware? How Does It Steal Information?

In simple words, it is a big threat to your privacy.


Spyware refers to any malicious software program that steals and distributes private data collected from a system. This data might be illegally sent to an advertiser, a data aggregator, or other external parties. As a by-product of its purpose, it ultimately steals network usage data.

The term “Spyware” encompasses everything installed without the user’s permission. Mainly, spyware programs focus on extracting highly sensitive information such as bank details. However, it can also collect your online activity, website credentials, personal files, etc.

Moreover, certain kinds of spyware can monitor location data, eavesdrop on calls, read texts, and access emails as well. Such malicious software is also known as stalkerware, which rivals or stalkers use on specific victims.

Cyber attackers often spread spyware via installed packages, email attachments, pop-up ad links, and shady websites. To avoid downloading spyware, you must keep away from obscure Websites and emails sent by strangers.

In an infected device, the spyware boots up as soon as the system does. It consumes system resources and internet data, slowing down the device’s performance significantly. Infected systems may also suffer from a breach of settings. In other words, spyware might tinker with and change your browser homepage, firewall options, dynamic link libraries, etc.

Although certain spyware versions can block any attempt to remove it from the system, your best bet to detect and get rid of it is by running an antivirus scan.

Types of Spyware

Spyware is any unauthorized software that keeps a close eye on your activity. Since this is a broad definition, these malware programs branch out into various categories. Here are the most common ones:


Adware is any software that displays unwanted and intrusive ads in its user interface. This kind of software is legal as long as it asks for the user’s consent. However, there are some instances when these programs sneakily install themselves on a system, often as a bundled extra with another software. It is termed a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUA) which shows annoying ads without the user’s permission.

Banker Trojan

Banker trojan specifically targets confidential financial information of a bank’s clients. Usually, this spyware acts as an impostor website, pretending to be the official website of a financial institution. It allures unsuspecting users into submitting their sensitive details to the fake website, leading to its misuse. Moreover, there also exists a smaller and more effective version of the same called Tiny Banker Trojan.


This spyware records all the keystrokes to find sensitive information such as login credentials. In certain cases, installing a keylogger on a system might be legal. For instance, when parents use it to monitor their children’s computer activity.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer who writes about anything remotely related to tech, including gaming, smartphones, social media, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to share feedback or talk about games, reach out to @priyeakapj on Twitter.
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