Spyware is software that monitors your behavior, tracks your digital activities, or otherwise intrusively monitors your computer usage. A malware spies on you without your permission and usually without your knowledge.
Downloading an infected file from the Internet or opening a malicious link in an email can trigger the installation of spyware on your computer.
Once installed, spyware can track nearly everything you do on your computer, including what websites you visit, what search terms you use, and even what files you view.
If left undetected or untreated, spyware can also collect sensitive information about you such as passwords, credit card numbers, bank account details and more.
Read on to learn more about identifying and removing spyware from your computer. It is easier than you might think!
Signs that Your Computer is Infected with Spyware
The first sign that your computer is infected with spyware is an unusual web browser behavior, such as pop-up windows, unusual advertising, a redirect from one website to another without your permission, or just general slowness when loading websites.
Other signs include;
- Getting pop-up ads on your computer that you can’t close.
- Your computer’s performance slowing down significantly.
- Receiving a ton of spam emails related to products or websites you have never visited.
- Seeing strange, unexplained software listed on your computer’s startup menu.
How to Identify and remove spyware
If you think your computer is infected with spyware, the first thing you need to do is scan your computer for it. Windows Defender is a free tool built right into Windows that will scan your computer for malware, including spyware, and remove any infected files it finds.
Let’s walk through how to use Windows Defender to scan for and remove spyware from your computer:
First, click the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen. Open the Control Panel from the menu, then click the Security and Maintenance menu item. Once the Windows Security screen loads, click the Check for Issues button.
Next, select the “Run a Scan with This Program” option. Once the scan is complete, click the “Fix Problems” button to remove any infected files Windows Defender finds.
Step 2: Scan your computer using a reliable anti-spyware program
If Windows Defender found no signs of spyware on your computer, or if it found spyware but you’re not sure if it removed it completely, a specialist anti-spyware scanner might be what you need.
You can download and install one of the top anti-spyware scanners for free on your computer, then scan it for any signs of spyware. If the scanner finds anything, it will remove it from your computer and report back to you with details about what it found.
Not sure which anti-spyware scanner to download?
Here are a few of the top anti-spyware scanners recommended by computer experts: – Malwarebytes: A free anti-spyware scanner that’s been around since 2008 and has a 4.5/5-star average rating on CNET.
Spybot Search and Destroy: A free anti-spyware scanner that’s been around since 2001 and has a 4/5-star average rating on CNET.
SpywareBlaster: A free anti-spyware scanner that’s been around since 2004 and has a 4/5-star average rating on CNET.
Step 3: Run a more advanced repair tool to find and remove more malware
If Windows Defender and a reliable anti-spyware scanner didn’t find and remove the spyware from your computer, there’s one last step you can take to find and remove more advanced malware from your computer.
Virus Removal Tools are special computer repair tools built specifically to find and remove viruses, malware and other malicious software from your computer.
Unlike Windows Defender and anti-spyware scanners, which only find and remove certain types of malware, a computer repair tool is more powerful and can find and remove a wider variety of malware including viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.
Not sure which repair tool to use?
Spyware is a very real threat that can infect your computer and seriously compromise your online privacy and security.
If you think your computer might be infected with spyware, you should take action immediately. The sooner you remove any existing spyware on your computer, the sooner you can protect yourself from future intrusions into your privacy and computer usage.
Make sure you keep your antivirus software up to date, only download apps from trusted sources, and always be cautious about what information you share online.