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How to detect spyware

Also, spyware and adware install on your PC by piggybacking onto file sharing utilities and other free software downloads. This column frequently discusses such privacy threats. But another, less-common threat could be more devastating to your privacy than any of the above: surveillance software installed on your machine by an employer or a family member.

Commercial "keylogger" programs spy on you invisibly. Not only can these utilities log your every keystroke, e-mail message, Web visit, and instant message, they can also grab screen shots and forward spy reports to a remote computer, all without your knowledge. These programs will ferret out and pass along everything you do with your computer.

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Worse, an employer or spouse is probably legally entitled to install this software on your computer while you're away from it. It's disturbing that mistrust can support so many software companies. Even more disturbing is the fact that it's not easy to detect and remove the surveillance programs these companies produce. Many of the products do such a good job of hiding themselves on your PC that simply looking for the installation files or for an application or process running in memory won't work.

Two other programs--PestPatrol Inc. No product found all of the keyloggers I had installed. While most of those programs--both the keyloggers and the anti-spyware utilities--have been updated since my tests, one thing is undoubtedly still true: The more anti-spy tools you employ, the better your chances of detecting a stealth keylogger.

Everyone who connects to the Internet should install and use both Ad-aware and Spybot as a matter of course. To do a more thorough scan, add PestPatrol and Spy Sweeper to your counterespionage arsenal. Both programs are available in trial versions see " Keyloggers Begone " for download details. If you suspect a keylogger is installed on your PC, you may be able to bring it out of stealth mode and uninstall it.

Even if the person who installed the spy software has changed this key sequence to something else, a little determined keyboard exploration might reveal the new combination--just be sure to close every application including those running in the system tray beforehand to minimize the chances of invoking unwanted keyboard commands in Windows or your apps. Once all your programs are shut down, press Ctrl - Alt , Ctrl - Shift - Alt , or a similar combination, and then by trial and error start pressing other keys.

There may be other ways to reveal a hidden spy program. If you find a keylogger on your system, you may not be able to access its settings, since the majority of these programs are password-protected. At least you now know that someone really is spying on you. Most of the time, this is simply done by installing the software on to the device physically, thus giving the app all the permissions it needs at the same time.

However, there are also remote options which do not need physical access. These versions will use the same tactics of cybercriminals -- a link or email attachment sent together with its malicious package. If you find yourself the recipient of odd or unusual social media messages, text messages, or emails, this may be a warning sign and you should delete them without clicking on any links or downloading any files.

Should stalkers employ this tactic, they need you to respond to it. In order to ensure this, messages may contain content designed to induce panic, such as a demand for payment, or they could potentially use spoofed addresses from a contact you trust. There's no magic button to send spyware over the air; instead, physical access or the accidental installation of spyware by the victim is necessary. In the case of potential physical tampering, it can take mere minutes for spyware to be installed on a device.

If your mobile or laptop goes missing and reappears with different settings or changes that you do not recognize, or perhaps has been confiscated for a time, this may be an indicator of compromise. Surveillance software is becoming more sophisticated and can be difficult to detect. However, not all forms of spyware and stalkerware are invisible and it is possible to find out if you are being monitored. Android: A giveaway on an Android device is a setting which allows apps to be downloaded and installed outside of the official Google Play Store.

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If enabled, this may indicate tampering and jailbreaking without consent. Not every form of spyware and stalkerware requires a jailbroken device, however.

There is an app available in the Play Store called Root Checker that can check for jailbreaking on your behalf. This varies depending on device and vendor. Some forms of spyware will also use generic names to avoid detection. If a process or app comes up on the list you are not familiar with, a quick search online may help you ascertain whether it is legitimate.

However, the presence of an app called Cydia, which is a package manager that enables users to install software packages on a jailbroken device, may indicate tampering unless you knowingly downloaded the software yourself. Windows: On Windows machines, double-checking installed program lists -- possible through the start bar -- and running processes under "Task Manager" may help you identify suspicious programs.

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Mac: On Apple Mac machines, you can do the same by clicking "Launchpad," "Other," and "Activity Monitor" to check the status of running programs. You can also reach Activity Monitor quickly through Spotlight. In the cases of Android and iOS devices, you may also experience unexpected battery drain, as well as unexpected or strange behavior from the device operating system or apps -- but in the latter case, many users of stalkerware will try not to play their hand.

As with most things in life, trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, it probably is -- and you should take steps to seize control of the situation. This is where things get difficult. By design, spyware and stalkerware are hard to detect and can be just as hard to remove.

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It is not impossible but may take some drastic steps on your part. When removed, especially in the case of stalkerware, some operators will receive an alert warning them that the victim device is clean. In addition, should the flow of information suddenly cease, this is a clear indicator that the malicious software has been eradicated. Unfortunately, some stalkerware services claim to survive factory resets. So, failing all of that, consider throwing your device in the nearest recycling bin and starting afresh. However, it may also appear under another generic name, and so before deleting any apps, perform a search on the app name first.

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Additional options to try are explained here. Both Google and Apple are generally quick off the mark if spyware or other forms of malicious apps manage to circumvent the privacy and security barriers imposed for applications hosted in their respective official app stores. While marketed as employee and child trackers, the tech giant took a dim view of their overreaching functions -- including GPS device tracking, access to SMS messages, the theft of contact lists, and potentially the exposure of communication taking place in messaging applications.

When it comes to Apple, the iPad and iPhone maker began a crackdown on parental control apps in April, citing privacy-invading functions as the reason for some iOS apps to be removed from the App Store. In some cases, Apple requested developers to remove functions, whereas, in others, the apps were simply removed.

The company offers its own parental device control service called Screen Time for parents that want to limit their children's device usage.

Email & Web Site Monitoring

Surveillance without consent is unethical and in domestic situations causes a severe imbalance in power. If your sixth sense says something is wrong, listen to it. A physical object is not worth sacrificing your privacy for. Should your device become compromised, take back control of your right to privacy -- whether or not this means replacing your handset entirely.

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Adobe left 7. Exposed data primarily includes emails, but not passwords or financial information.

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