A recent investigative report highlighted a growing concern regarding online ads acting as gateways for Spyware, exposing devices to covert surveillance, especially in regions like Nigeria. With the digital landscape rapidly expanding in Nigeria, many users may need to be made aware of the lurking dangers associated with the digital footprints they leave behind daily.


Our daily online activities, including shopping and communication, create large amounts of data. Advertising networks use this data to personalize advertisements. Combining user information from networks and phone locations can compromise anonymity. However, the real threat is Spyware - malicious software that can be secretly installed on devices, giving hackers access to personal data, including calls, texts, and emails.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has unveiled that an Israeli tech firm, Insanet, has pioneered a method to deliver Spyware through online ad networks. Named 'Sherlock', this Spyware can be discreetly installed on a device when a user views a targeted ad. Unlike other spyware tools that exploit phone vulnerabilities, Sherlock leverages ad networks for its covert operations. The report indicates that Sherlock can compromise Windows computers, Android phones, and even iPhones.

Ad networks have been used over time to distribute malicious software, also known as 'malvertising'. It is crucial to distinguish between malware and Spyware as they have unique characteristics. Malware typically attacks computers, aiming to encrypt data or steal passwords. Conversely, Spyware is more cunning, targeting mobile devices to collect sensitive information stealthily.

Nigerians, in particular, are urged to exercise caution when interacting with online ads and to be vigilant about the links they click on. The Haaretz report also raises concerns about the Israeli government's endorsement of Insanet's technology, allowing its sale to a broader audience. This endorsement exposes everyone, including Nigerians, to the risk of surveillance. However, there's a silver lining: deploying Sherlock is expensive, with a single infection costing a staggering US$6.4 million, as per an internal document from Haaretz.