Lately, feeling paranoid about being spied on through a computer by hackers (or anyone, really) is a legitimate concern. There’s enough proof of unsuspecting people having their devices and web cameras hacked and strangers keeping track of their every move.
From women being spied on by self-proclaimed “ratters” to people’s unsecured camera feeds listed on freely available websites. Then there are the people who have their devices hacked or taken over by scammers using popular remote desktop software.
It’s enough to make anyone feel creeped out. Especially now that so many people are using their computers every day while working from home. So, it’s important to get acquainted with what type of threats there are and how to counter them.
Being scared that someone might be spying on every click or online call could be that – just being scared. But it’s worth going to the trouble of ensuring that can’t happen, not just for peace of mind but also for personal safety.
People have had their lives upended by hackers who gained access to their personal information and lives, such as using that information to blackmail or steal from them or learning about their lives so they can harm them. Some even go as far as having people killed by SWAT teams – an ugly phenomenon known as ‘swatting.’
Some of the most common ways criminals gain access to people’s computers are:
– Malware or viruses obtained from infected websites, adware, scam software/app downloads, or phishing scams.
– Monitoring software used by schools, workplaces, or anyone with secret motivations.
– Remote desktop software, which can be hacked or installed by an outsider via social engineering (like phishing emails).
– Hackers that get access to a computer by exploiting vulnerabilities in installed software/apps.
– Man-in-the-middle attacks that gain access to the network connection and monitor what people do online.
– Faulty security or firewall settings – or lack thereof.
– A website is being hacked, where criminals intercept the connections of everyone who visits the site.
– Via vulnerabilities or viruses in other devices in the network.
This step can be done immediately but should be repeated. No matter how many protections are put in place, it’s always possible that someone will get through the computer’s defenses.
First off, be aware of how fast the computer responds. If it seems sluggish or struggles to run one or few programs simultaneously, that might be a red flag. Be on the lookout for unknown programs taking up a lot of CPU or RAM (which can be checked via the Task Manager).
Every type of spyware is different, so it’s hard to pinpoint a set checklist. However, be attentive to any programs that open up without permission or windows/programs that suddenly open and then close again. This doesn’t include programs that open with the startup, of course. Be aware of any suspicious or unwarranted behavior in general, like the mouse moving or webcam turning on without command.
First, ensure the computer is protected by basic security measures like anti-virus and a firewall. An antivirus program will protect the computer against most (known) viruses, malware, keyloggers, and other malicious software. A firewall will keep outsiders from gaining access to and interfering with the network, for the most part. Microsoft computers already come with an adequate antivirus and firewall. Just make sure to keep these updated.
On top of that, additional security measures like encrypted drives and a VPN can be beneficial too. Both these tools use strong encryption techniques to scramble data so that outsiders cannot access it.
Finally, delete any unnecessary software/apps that are not in use – but be careful not to delete anything the computer needs to function. Always keep the computer’s operating software and any installed software/apps up to date as updates often contain important security fixes.
The term “risky behavior” can be ambiguous, but in this case, it means doing things that make it easier for hackers to get in. That means taking precautions, like properly inspecting software before and after downloading it – among other things.
Anyone that wants to protect their privacy needs to be up to date with what constitutes risky behavior and what type of threats exist. For example, most people know by now that they shouldn’t click on links sent by strangers and shouldn’t reply to emails from unknown senders. Phishing scams are still one of the most prolific threats to individuals both at home and at work. So it’s important to know what the key hallmarks of popular phishing scams and tactics are.
The golden rule is to be skeptical about revealing anything to a stranger or clicking on links/downloading new files. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from someone else. Visiting a shady website (like downloading illegal mp3 songs) can result in software being downloaded onto the computer without anyone being the wiser.
It’s normal to be concerned about computer spy software. Thankfully, it’s possible to keep most attacks at bay with a few precautionary measures. Software companies also keep evolving their security measures to stay ahead of new spyware technology.