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Beware the 9 signs of spyware.

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PCMag SecurityWatch
Beware the 9 Signs of Spyware
(Credit: Getty Images)
There are loads of apps available to download for any purpose, good or ill. According to a 2020 survey by NortonLifeLock, ten percent of the 2,000 US adults surveyed admitted to using an app to monitor an ex or current partner’s text messages, phone calls, and other communications. Men were 2.5 more likely than women to engage in this behavior. 

As I noted in this article about how stalkerware enables domestic abuse, according to the US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence, any form of nonconsensual surveillance creates the potential for a power imbalance in a relationship. Companies usually market stalkerware or spyware apps as tools to monitor current or former romantic partners. Stalkerware can also be packaged as parental control software or employee tracking solutions.

Recently,  VPNOverview compiled a detailed list of phone behaviors that could indicate that someone is spying on your device. Below is a summary of the list.
  1. The device has lagging or slow device performance. 
    Spyware tends to be resource-intensive because it's uploading your data, photos, and documents to an external server. Scan and delete hidden apps with antivirus software.
  2. The device restarts on its own. 
    Someone may have remote, administrator-level access to your phone if it keeps shutting down and restarting. Update your phone's operating system. If your device continues rebooting, it may have a spyware infection.
  3. The device is overheating.
    Visit your device's settings menu, then check the app list to see which ones use the most resources. If you see an app you don't recognize using the most energy, delete it.
  4. You notice unusually high data usage on mobile service bills.
    Hackers want to harvest your data and sell it to the black market or use it to blackmail you. To gather this information, a hacker will remotely access your phone and transfer your files to their server, which requires data usage on your end. Therefore, if your cellular data usage seems unusually high, this could indicate that something suspicious is going on with your phone.
  5. Unfamiliar apps appear in the app list on your device.
    Check your installed apps periodically, and look for any you do not recognize. Uninstall these apps by going to the settings on your phone and locating your apps list.
  6. The device's battery runs out fast.
    Your device’s battery life can be affected by two things: age or your phone is using a lot of resources that require a lot of energy. In the latter case, this could be caused by a legitimate app consuming too many resources or something more sinister, like spyware. Replace the batter to rule out the possibility of a hacker spying on your phone. 
  7. The device takes a long time to shut down.
    If your phone takes a long time to shut down, it may be infected with spyware. This is because spyware tends to run constantly in the background transmitting your data to third parties, and your phone will try to shut down the hidden programs before it can shut down.  
  8. You hear weird sounds during calls.
    Spyware can be used to eavesdrop on you, and many apps make odd sounds while recording calls. These sounds could be a warning sign of spyware.  
  9. You notice signs of activity on your device while in standby mode.
    If the noises and flashing lights you see while your device is in standby mode are not due to notifications of calls, texts, emails, or any other familiar activity, you should check to see if any legitimate apps are malfunctioning or restart your phone.  
If you suspect stalkerware or spyware on your device, read PCMag's guide to finding and removing spyware from your mobile device and desktop computer.

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US Banks Process $1.2 Billion for Ransomware Hackers
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A new report from the US Treasury Department shows ransomware attacks cost victims more than $1 billion in 2021. As PCMag reporter Michael Kan writes, the estimate comes from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which looked at US banks and their filings concerning money transactions to suspected ransomware hackers. 

The numbers highlight the uphill battle the US faces in countering the persistent ransomware scourge, which can take entire company networks hostage. However, the Treasury Department also noted that in the second half of 2021, it released advisories to banks about alerting authorities to suspected ransomware incidents. So the recent spike in the numbers may come from more financial institutions reporting ransomware payments. 

Click here to read a summary of the report.

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