I attended a webinar on the “History of Spyware” last week and I need to let you know, what I heard worries me. I’ve been in and around the technology arena for over 20 years and while the history of spyware was interesting to look back on, the future of spyware for mobile devices and small business computer networks scares me – A LOT.A Brief HistorySpyware became mainstream in the technology scene in 1998. Its motivation was to show off – code was written to get our attention, it spoke to us and said “look what I can do” as it infiltrated our computers and annoyed us with non-targeted pop-up advertisements.In 2002 things changed, spyware and adware began to infect our computers in order to gather information. Loading programs that could record our keystrokes so it could identify commonly typed words and phrases, like usernames and passwords.
About 2006 spyware became a more prominent criminal behavior. As it invaded our computers there was no more showing off. This change occurred so that those behind the attacks could mine for personal and business data without being detected. No longer were they only tracking keystrokes and discovering passwords – now any and all data that we had stored on our laptops, PCs and small business computer networks was susceptible.
Finally in 2010 spyware starting being used, as it is to this day, in cyber espionage. Targeted attacks are launched everyday against major corporations, entire industries, and even governments.
What Scares Me About Spyware for Smartphones
Some of the things I heard include:
- There may be as many as 4 NEW Spyware variants created every second
- New Spyware attacks may infect only a dozen devices before changing
- The entry level into Spyware crime is low while its sophistication is high
What do these things mean? It’s becoming nearly impossible for anyone to keep up with the innovation of spyware at the speed at which it is created and changing. The fact that a very low number of devices are ever infected before a specific spyware morphs itself into something different means there is little evidence to create security patches to guard against it. Lastly, and most importantly, is that to get involved in spyware crime doesn’t take a lot of investment or a lot of personal expertise while the output of the crime is highly sophisticated, difficult to detect and almost impossible to undo.
Talk to anyone that provides computer support for small business and they’ll tell you that preventing spyware intrusion is one of their top priorities. Why? Just ask someone who has had their identity stolen by a cyber criminal. It can take years, plus extraordinary efforts and expense, to undo what one spyware security breach can do. Add to all of this that in today’s modern world just about everyone I know carries their most personal computer around with them in their front pocket. We all need to get serious about preventing spyware for smartphones.
What Not To Do
It’s human nature to wait for a significant event before the masses are willing to adopt change – Don’t Wait. Considering the influx of smartphone usage by the average person, imagine the significance of one major wireless provider getting hacked and infected with spyware without immediate detection. How much private data is stored on your smartphone? How many different apps have access to your contact lists, your personal and/or company email, or your GPS tracking software? What information would you be sharing with a world of criminals if they were able to “spy” on your phone or mobile device? Don’t wait for a significant event before you adopt change.
Change starts with awareness. You won’t know what is putting you at risk if you don’t take notice of how you are using technology, including where you use it – guest networks are not as safe as we think. Make sure you are using a top-level anti-virus and anti-spyware detection software, not only on your personal and business computers but on all your mobile devices, especially your smartphones. I’m an android user and the apps I prefer are AVG Antivirus and Malwarebytes. These work for me, but I’m a careful user. I’d suggest doing your own research and choose what works best for you. Here’s an article I recommend from cnet.
As I mentioned, its becoming nearly impossible for anyone to keep up with how fast spyware is changing, so beyond installing just one antivirus or spyware detection end-point application, you should adopt a multi-level security approach. Lastly,and especially for those storing proprietary company data on their smartphones and mobile devices, and for those who need small business computer support, consider investing into a mobile device management system like ProMobile. Even if you don’t provide smartphones or mobile devices to your employees, if you allow them to bring their own devices (BYOD) for use within your small business computer network – you are still at risk.
About the Author: Mark James is the Director of Technical Business Development at To Solution, Inc., an information technology managed service provider based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Visit https://tosolution.com/blog to read more of Mark’s blogs, or connect on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/markjamesmj7.
About ToSolution: To Solution, Inc. is an information technology company providing computer support for small business in Waukesha, Wisconsin and the Greater Milwaukee Area, including Brookfield, Germantown, Menomonee Falls, Mequon, New Berlin, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee and all of Southeastern Wisconsin.
The company was founded in 2010 after the owners, Tim O’Neil and Dan Schneck, decided to merge their existing businesses in order to enhance their IT service offerings. ToSolution has become the managed service provider of choice for businesses seeking reliable and secure computer networks that allow people to focus on growing their business instead of worrying about technology.