How to Find Out If Your Computer Is Being Watched

By Richard Kalinowski

Computers make it easier to manage finances, perform important work tasks and send instant personal messages. However, with the convenience of modern computers comes a troubling downside. While performing sensitive, personal tasks on a computer saves time, storing important data there puts your at increased risk of financial or identity theft. It is important to regularly evaluate your computer’s security, looking for the telltale signs of spyware. Unfortunately, many consumers don’t know how to tell if their computers are being watched, but the good news is that detecting unauthorized access is actually fairly simple. In just a few steps, you’ll know if your computer is being watched.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-spyware program

Step 1

Install and regularly use an anti-spyware program. McAfee and Norton, two major computer security companies, provide comprehensive anti-spyware protection products. There are additional steps you can take to look for signs of an intrusion, as well as unauthorized access by family and friends that spyware detectors overlook. However, the bulk of identity theft occurs from malicious spyware programs. Symantec, the manufacturer of Norton software, claims that spyware is typically well-hidden, often invisible to the user, so a good anti-spyware program is essential for security and detecting anybody who might be watching your computer.

Step 2

Check for unauthorized programs running on your computer. According to DIY Spy, you can see a list of currently running programs by holding the “Ctrl, “Alt” and “Delete” keys all at the same time. If an unfamiliar program is running, research it online to determine if it is simply a hidden system program, or possible spyware used to watch and track your computer’s activity. Close down unwanted programs by selecting them on the list and clicking “End Task.”

Step 3

Check your program histories. Microsoft Word, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Apple Safari and many other programs keep a “history” of files opened and sites visited. In the case of many word processors and image editors, the history is simply represented by a list of the last 10 items opened by the user. This list often appears at the bottom of the “File” menu. For Internet browsers, history is more detailed, listing the dates and times of website visitation. To find Internet history, click on any visible “history” folders or click “Internet options” to access the browser’s advanced history options. If you notice unfamiliar files or websites on your history lists, you may have a privacy intrusion, and you should change your computer’s login passwords to prevent unauthorized users from accessing and watching what you do.

Step 4

Look for increased numbers of profile views on your Facebook, Myspace or other social networking page. Most networking sites allow users to look at the number of profile views; major spikes in these numbers indicate that somebody is regularly checking up on your page, watching your computer’s online activity. If this is the case, protect yourself by rethinking your “friends list” and making the page “private” rather than “public.”