Did you know that there is a thriving industry that caters to people who enjoy surreptitiously spying on others? Spy shops that sell telescopes, hidden cameras, voice recorders, and other surveillance devices tend to do brisk business, and there is also a software side to this industry.
What Can Spying Software Do?
Spy software, not to be confused with spyware, is designed to log the activity of a computing device by different means. Some of the legitimate users of spy and monitoring software include:
- Intelligence agencies that use these applications to get information from their adversaries.
- Police detectives who may request search warrants to install monitoring software on a suspect’s computer as part of an investigation
- Companies that may want to monitor their mobile devices with these applications for compliance and security purposes. In this case, employees are notified of the extent of logging and tracing in their assigned devices.
Unfortunately, many people purchase espionage software for nefarious purposes; most of the time, these applications are used to keep tabs on people without their knowledge. Naturally, this is highly unethical and illegal; what is even more unfortunate is that these applications are widely marketed to the general public in ways that make them appear as an enticing product for jealous or scorned lovers, overprotective parents and people who enjoy a bit of gossip in their lives.
The Dangers of Data Breaches
The functionality of spy software depends on the developer and the intent. Some applications may include a keylogger function that records all keystrokes for the purpose of acquiring username/password combinations. Other functions include taking snapshots of the screen throughout the day, making copies of emails, view photos, and access browsing history. In the case of smartphones, calls may be recorded and logged along with text messages; in fact, the device can be traced if it has GPS as a feature.
Once installed, spy software runs silently in the background. The information collected is summarized and sent via email to the person who installed the malicious application. Keyloggers are sometimes detected by antivirus software; however, spy apps are often coded with the sophistication that makes them completely invisible, even to security programs.