Whilst we may perceive our Macs as being impenetrable, they are very much prone to getting viruses just like any other internet-connected piece of technology. Spyware, like any other virus, can infect our mac, but fortunately they’re not too hard to get rid of.
Spyware is exactly as it sounds. They are pieces of malicious code that hoovers up your personal data, such as your private information, web browsing habits, and even your passwords and financial details.
Within spyware, there are four main categories: Adware, trojans, keyloggers, and cookie trackers.
Adware is perhaps the most common. It causes relentless pop-up adverts to arise on your mac which can impede on your productivity. But fortunately, it’s probably the most benign of the spyware virus types and can be pretty easy to spot. Trojans, on the other hand, are wrapped up in legitimate-looking software, like updates or programs, but they can access your data on a deep level.
Cookie trackers are a bit like adware as they too track your browsing habits, whilst keyloggers are very pernicious, tracking every keystroke you make which can expose your passwords, browser activity, and your general data.
So, now you’re aware of the types of spyware, how do we use mac spyware removal techniques to mitigate this risk?
Finding the spyware
The first step in finding the spyware is to actually identify the symptoms of the suspected virus. Erratic behaviour from your mac along with poor battery life, random freezing, and out-of-control adverts are some of the main symptoms to keep an eye out for. Overheating and a slowing down of the mac are also common with spyware.
So, the next step to take is to have a look for the Spyware and detect its activity. Head over to your Activity Monitor (Applications folder, then press the Utilities folder, then hit Activity Monitor). From here, you can see the background processes and detect if anything suspicious is hogging all of your CPU resources.
For a more advanced approach, launch App Tamer to assess your CPU processes. This can be useful to prevent the freezing and slowing down of the mac, because you can click on an app and enter a “slow down this app if it uses more than: x%” and type in your desired %.
Another approach to finding the spyware is through Login Items, which are the programs that are automatically booted up along with your mac upon turning on. Head over to the Apple menu, click on System Preferences, click on Users & Groups, then finally, select your user account and press on Login Items. Browse the items listed and force quit any suspicious programs.
Finally, head over to Safari (or the browser that you use) and view the extensions. It’s common for some spyware to install dangerous extensions against your will as they can track your online activity. Remove the extensions that you did not install yourself, and whilst you’re at it, change your homepage and default search engine back if these were also altered by the spyware.
Removing spyware from your Mac
Above are some useful ways to seek out the spyware, and it may be possible to find the virus hiding within your Applications or Downloads folder and remove it manually. However, you would be running the risk of missing some traces, so it’s best to use anti-virus software that is credible.
Good anti-virus software will allow you to scan the mac with a single click, and should remove the malware automatically once it’s detected. You should still check your browser extensions manually, but beyond this, the anti-virus software should do most of your heavy lifting.
One of the most important ways to remain spyware-free, beyond relying on the anti-virus software, is to keep your mac up to date with the latest version. macOS updates adapt to new malware and will perform security patches to fight against the latest mutations of virus. Not staying up to date on any device is a huge factor in declining performance and getting infected.
You should also keep organised by regularly maintaining your Downloads and Application folders. Not only will clearing up the clutter improve your productivity, but staying on top of things will allow you to spot sudden changes. If a new program appears, it will be more obvious if you regularly tidy these folders.
Another important factor in staying spyware free is by staying on your best behaviour. Dodgy websites that promise free software or media are a hotbed of viruses, even if you think you know what you’re doing. Knowing when to back out of websites and not to open email attachments is vital, too.
It’s also important not to download many browser extensions. Not only will it be harder to spot a new one being installed against your knowledge, but using obscure extensions can in and of itself be a security risk.