Q. Hi, Kim. I think my husband has been spying on me. I know he started reading my search history, so I've been deleting that using your help. However, he still brings up information that we've never talked about and that he shouldn't know. I heard you talk about programs that record everything you do on a computer. Do you think it's possible he's using one of these to spy on me? How would I remove it from my laptop? Thank you so much in advance.
-Kat, from Jackson, MS, listens to my national radio show on WJNT 1180 AM.
A. This sounds likes a dangerous situation, Kat. The program you're talking about is called a keylogger, and I can help you remove it.
However, I want you to keep something in mind. If the computer does have a keylogger, your husband is going to see that you're trying to remove it.
That could escalate his trust problems and potentially lead to something worse. I don't know your situation, but you might want to set up an emergency plan just in case. Click here for some tips for getting away from an abusive relationship. Remember, your safety is more important than removing spying software.
Now, back to keyloggers. For those who don't know, a keylogger is a special type of program that records everything you do on your computer. Some versions only record your keyboard keystrokes while others can record mouse movements and take continuous screenshots as well.
These programs are designed to hide from normal detection. Some keyloggers can even sneak past security software. That means it's hard to tell if you're infected.
You'll often hear about jealous spouses or concerned parents using them, but hackers also use them to steal passwords and bank information.
Before we go any further, I should mention that it's perfectly legal to install a keylogger, like Spector Pro ($100), on a computer you own. So, parents and businesses are well within their rights.
In your case, Kat, if your husband legally owns the laptop and you end up in a divorce, removing the keylogger could lead to legal hassles. If this is your situation, I'd talk to a lawyer before doing anything.
However, if the laptop is yours, you're free to remove the keylogger in question. You just have to find it, first.
There are actually two different types of keyloggers - hardware and software. Hardware keyloggers attach to your computer. There's no way to detect them with software, but they are often easy to see if you're looking.
A hardware keylogger might look like a small USB drive. Some can even have plugs at both ends so they attach to the end of your keyboard or mouse cable for extra concealment.
If expense isn't an issue, there are keyboards and mice with keyloggers built in. Tech-savvy snoops can hide keyloggers inside a computer. If you think you have one of these, you might want to consult a professional to help you remove it.
If you do find a hardware keylogger, unplugging it makes it stop working.
It's much more likely you have a software keylogger. Modern security software can often detect and stop these kinds of keyloggers before they install.
However, if the snoop has access to your computer, they can tell the security software to ignore the keylogger program. Once it is installed, it's virtually invisible.
KL-Detector is a good free option to detect a keylogger. It will tell you if a program is creating new data files when you're typing.
Some regular programs you use might be doing this, so you'll have to look for programs you don't recognize. You might have to research some of the programs online.
Once you've confirmed your fears, you'll need another tool to remove the keylogger. A manual virus scanner like Malwarebytes might be able to find and remove it. If it doesn't, however, a paid program like SpyReveal ($50) is your best bet.
Removing the keylogger program should destroy or lock away the recorded data.
Unfortunately, some keyloggers send data remotely. If the keylogger your husband used is doing that, there's not an easy way to get rid of the remote the files back. However, he won't see anything in the future.
You'll also need to change your computer and online account passwords, since he probably has those. He won't need a keylogger if he can just log in to your Facebook account.
It's not just jealous spouses - spying is rampant on the Web. Here are three more types of spying you should take care of.
- If the government thinks you're "interesting," it might keep all sorts of tabs on you. Find out if the NSA is spying on you.
- Most laptops have webcams, which makes it easier for a hacker to spy on you. Stop webcam spying with these simple tips.
- Your mobile gadget could make it easy for someone to stalk you, or worse. Change these settings to protect your privacy.