With IoT spreading like wildfire across all devices, the threat of information breach and privacy concerns is increasing day by day. Taking this into consideration, the use of antivirus and other security software has now become an essential practice. Despite the countless benefits of the antivirus software, consumers are unaware of the fact that it can be a very powerful spy, leveraged by hackers to collect information of its users as well.
The Kaspersky Antivirus conspiracy that took place a few years back, brought the risks of using antivirus software on the surface. Today, it is acknowledged by all intelligence agencies that spyware can pose to be a very powerful undercover agent that is able to collect confidential information of its users.
Anyone using the internet is a potential target for cybercriminals; which is why we have a dire need for antivirus and firewalls. Antivirus companies loudly and repeatedly advertise about potential threats expected by hackers and cybercriminals on our devices and state specifically how their antivirus products can help us secure our online activities and information. But then, what about the rumors that these antiviruses are likely to spy on us and cause issues for us rather than becoming our security against the online threats?
Before the panic sets in, let’s take a look at what we’re talking about and dealing with.
The Spyware Truth Untold!
It is a fact that antivirus software has special access to all the information and data on your computer. In order to protect your system against malware, it frequently scans everything on your computer including all your online activities. Everything scanned is then saved in online databases. This is gift wrapped information for cybercriminals to steal or to leak to external threats; that is why it is crucial to make sure that the company you use for antivirus services is trustworthy.
According to the recent surveys, there have been numerous threats and breaches on popular platforms online that require user accounts to access features with Yahoo being just one of the examples. Moving further, have you ever wondered why Avast offers free antiviral services? No, it has nothing to do with generosity!
A joint investigation carried out by PCMag and MotherBoard showed that Avast is gathering data to pay for its expenses and software. The documents leaked by Avast include highly sensitive data like user information, contracts, and other documents. This data is collected and repackaged to sell to big companies in the tech industry such as Google, Yelp, Microsoft, etc.
There is a certain package that can track behavior, clicks and even small movements from website to website. This package helps companies, like Amazon, learn about user behavior with intense precision, for example, your shopping habits. Another popular antivirus software company under suspicion is Israeli ‘Check Point’, and if the word of mouth is to be believed it may be committing cybercrime as well.
Scareware – The Perfect Example of the Case in Study
A rogue antivirus software called ‘scareware’ is infamous nowadays for its online fraud cases. What this scareware does is that it fools you into thinking that your device is infected. It then tells you what steps to follow to get rid of the infected virus.
It will ask you to download or even pay for software that will clean the virus out, when in fact, the software you download or pay for – is your enemy. It will gain access to your personal information and send it to the cybercriminals involved. The one big difference between this scareware and actual antivirus software is that the scareware doesn’t do any work. It scans your device a lot faster than other legitimate software programs. The model followed by scareware is also a giveaway; ‘free-scan paid-cleanup’ is a model followed by very few actual antivirus companies.
Practice Defense against the Anti-Malware Itself!
There are a number of ways people can protect themselves from cyber-attacks. To prevent falling victim to scams, it would be wise to go for a credible antivirus company that has a very strong reputation and a history of satisfied customers. Here are a few basic practices:
- Install only well-researched software
- Do not click any random update or link suggested
- Block popup adverts
- Disable autorun and autoplay
- Carefully select access options
- Keep updated with government notifications on cybersecurity
- If it is free – there is a reason. Research about it before you take it.
To answer the question of whether your antivirus is spying on you… well, it probably is not. But that is no excuse to ignore the need for precautionary measures. Stay updated with government-issued warnings and research on the company type, age, reliability, and reputation. Steer clear of random and unknown antivirus warnings asking you to download software. A good motto to go by is if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.