Are Antispyware and Antivirus The Same?

Not all security tools are created equal. Do you know the difference between antivirus and antispyware software? Cybercriminals certainly do. They can use your computer’s microphone and webcam streams to spy on you while you sleep—and your antivirus software will not be able to do anything to stop it. Learn the difference between these two cybersecurity products and what programs you need to have installed to make sure that your laptop doesn’t turn into a spy agency operating within your own home.

What Is Antivirus Software?

Antivirus programs specifically look for computer viruses, some of the oldest cybersecurity threats which work by replicating malicious codes samples on host operating systems. Antivirus programs are still important, but they’re limited to detecting viruses.

Specifically, these programs are not designed to detect and remove malware—a much larger class of threats. Malware includes threats such as adware, ransomware, and more.

What is Spyware?

Malware is a broad category of the cybersecurity threat, but if you could only pick one kind to avoid, I would make it spyware. There’s a reason why I say that—the damage it could cause to your system is simply colossal.

Spyware attempts to covertly obtain information about the user and the repercussions can be frightening. It can be delivered as a trojan, adware, system monitor, or tracking cookie—but regardless of the vector, the payload’s ultimate intention is always to capture and send information about the user.

Spyware can attempt to take over peripheral devices connected by USB, such as webcams, as well as cameras connected over the local network, like IP cameras. As IP cameras are often used for connecting CCTV systems and monitoring young infants, cybercriminals could literally gain access to a 24/7 stream of your property and loved ones. Because streaming things like video resources can consume extensive amounts of bandwidth, spyware can also both cause considerable system performance impairment and increase data consumption on mobile devices—leaving your wallet, as well as your identity, in tatters.

Less sophisticated forms of spyware will capture keystrokes and can intercept usernames and passwords. This could potentially expose logins to internet banking websites and email accounts, potentially resulting in fraud on a massive scale.

Due to the complete visibility, it can provide over its targets’ personal life, spyware has been widely deployed by private investigators, intelligence agencies, and police departments. Not only is it important that your system is protected against it to thwart fraud attempts, but you’ll also want to make sure that somebody with a grudge against you has hired a digital spy to keep tabs on your online movements. Given the unparalleled access it can provide into a computer user’s life, it’s vital that users either supplement their antivirus with anti-spyware or choose a security suite which offers protection against both.

Three Top Tools With Antivirus and Anti-Spyware Protection

These three tools have proven virus-fighting and spyware-catching abilities:


Comodo’s malware detection is notably good at detecting and eliminating spyware. Comodo includes a dedicated spyware scanner and instantaneously disables anything it comes across.


Malwarebytes is another heavyweight whose tools include real-time protection against spyware. Their team has a strong track record for identifying and flagging emerging spyware threats.


Avast’s premium product lines include spyware detection and removal. The tool uses behavioral analysis to look for patterns that indicate unauthorized programs are trying to access peripherals like microphones and webcams. Avast’s strength is certainly in real-time or zero-day protection, a particularly frequently targeted delivery mechanism for spyware.

Download a Tool Today

The prospect of malware spying on your computer is both real and horrifying. Regular antivirus programs are not designed to look out for malware that can take photos and videos of you and your loved ones undetected. Don’t put your privacy and security at risk.

About the Author

Mercy Pilkington
Mercy Pilkington
Tech industry writer on AV software, cybercrime, and digital innovation

About the Author

Mercy Pilkington has been a tech industry news writer for nearly ten years. She regularly covers topics such as software, cybercrime, and digital innovation.