A program that spies on your computer activity is one of the most dangerous forms of malware. It won’t present you with a ransomware request or announce it’s deleting your files. Instead, it hides silently on your system, watching and recording all your computer activity.
Spyware can do everything from hijacking your webcam feed to recording your keyboard inputs. The culprits ultimately aim to collect enough of your personal data to steal your identity, take over your accounts, or expose your digital life in other ways. To minimize the odds of an unwanted program taking root on your machine, follow our guide to staying spyware-free.
Secure your system
To start with, you need to establish solid protection for your computer. Most antivirus programs for both Windows and macOS will protect against keyloggers, webcam hackers, and other types of spyware, especially if you vigilantly keep this software up to date. How do you choose? You won’t find a “one size fits all” security solution for everyone. For most home computers, free software should provide adequate level of protection, but paying for an upgraded version of the program will increase your chances of staying safe.
Even with a strong antivirus program in place, you don’t want to give spyware a chance to hitch a ride on your computer. If you want to keep prying eyes off your system, then you need to monitor all the potential ways malicious code can worm its way into your machine. Sadly, some spyware enters through the household, when people attempt to pry into the computer behavior of their friends and family members. While we’re sure everyone in your home is perfectly trustworthy…a shared computer should still have separate user accounts for each person who relies on that machine. Protect those accounts with passwords to keep out snoops: In Windows, do this in Settings > Accounts; in macOS, check the setting in System Preferences > Users & Groups.
Know the warning signs
No matter how tight you make your system’s defenses, you shouldn’t get complacent. In addition to taking the aforementioned precautions against infection, keep an eye out for these signs of spyware’s presence.
One red flag is a system that runs sluggishly. Of course, older computers slow down gradually over time, but watch for a sudden drop in performance. Also keep an eye out for a lot of hard drive activity and software pauses, especially if they happen even when your computer is not running a lot of programs.