Quick check to see if anyone is spying on your computer

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We all know the feeling. You scroll through your phone and there it is. An ad that you can link back to a recent conversation with a friend. Click or click here for simple steps to get advertisers to stop tracking you.

Bad habits can spread even more of your secrets. If you go the easy way and use your Facebook or Google account to sign in to other sites and apps, turn it off. Click or click here to see how much of your data Big Tech and others get freely.

Maybe it’s not advertisers or Big Tech tracking. Here’s a check to see if anything very creepy is going on – a copy of everything you do on your PC or Mac will be collected and sent to who knows who.

1. Check Task Manager or Activity Monitor

Malware comes in different forms that often behave differently. Some are impossible to miss – like ransomware – and others are low profile.

Spyware is subtle compared to other types of malware. It hides in your system and keeps track of every password you enter, every video call you make, and every email you send.

Although these pieces of software are sneaky, they leave bread crumbs. Your first stop is Task Manager if you’re on a Windows PC or your Activity Monitor on a Mac. Both give you an overview of everything that happens on your machine.

PC users: Follow these steps

  • Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc. On the Processes tab, you can see apps and background processes running on your PC.
  • Look through the list. If you see a name you do not recognize, do a search to see what appears. Sometimes these programs and background processes are legitimate and worry-free, even if you do not know the name at first glance.
  • To close an app or process, right-click and tap Finish task.
Hacker attacks the internet

Hacker attacks the internet
(iStock)

Mac users: Follow these steps

  • To open Activity Monitor, press Command + spacebar to open Spotlight Search. Then, type Activity monitoring and press Enter. Check the list for something you do not recognize.
  • To close an application or process, double-click and then tap Exit.

LISTEN: Spyware can be planted by a hacker, a jealous ex, a relative or even your boss. In this podcast episode, I dive into how “bossware” works and everything your workplace might know about you and your technical habits.

2. Know what to expect

A revealing sign of a malware infection? Processes start by themselves. Do not write it off if an app launches itself out of the blue. Take it as a warning sign.

Let’s say you only have a few apps that open when you start your computer. If another window appears briefly before it whirls out of existence, it may be a spyware program that is loading. They are designed to disappear so you do not notice them, but they can briefly show themselves this way.

By keeping track of what should happen when you start your computer, you get a better idea when something strange happens.

Someone may be using your computer against you.

Someone may be using your computer against you.
(Reuters)

To change startup apps on a PC:

  • click on Start menu.
  • choose Settings (gear icon) and click Apps.
  • Click in the menu on the left Start up at the bottom.

The Start panel shows the apps installed on your machine. If Windows has measured the effect of that app on your PC, you will see a rating next to it. The options include No Impact, Low Impact, Medium Impact and High Impact.

A high-impact app can lower your startup time. Go through the list and find out which apps you do not need immediately after startup. Switch each slider next to the app to turn it on or off.

To change startup apps on a Mac:

  • click on Apple menuthen System preferences.
  • click Users & groups.
  • Choose yours User accountand then click Login items upper right.

Here you will see a list of the applications that open automatically when you log in.

Click to prevent an app from running automatically Remove a login item. Then select the name of the app you want to block and click Remove button below the list.

You can use the check box to hide items you still want to start. Touch the plus symbol under the list and locate it on your computer to add a new item.

What happens when you detect malware on your computer? You’re going to work. Tap or click here for the steps you need to take to protect yourself.

3. Stay up to date

I know. Updates are annoying. They always show up when you’re in a hurry and you do not want to deal with bugs and other issues that the latest version of Windows or macOS introduces. Still, keeping your system up to date is one of the best ways to keep up with the constant stream of junk that wants to clutter your computer.

To update your Mac:

  • click on Apple icon from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  • Hit System preferences > Software update.

From here, you can also enable automatic updates by selecting the check box at the bottom of the window. Click for more options Advanced.

Make sure your phones and computers are up to date.

Make sure your phones and computers are up to date.

How to update your PC:

  • click on Start menu and open Settings.
  • click Update and security > Windows update.

You will see if updates are available for download. If an update is available, click Download and install. If you do not see an available update, click search for updates to force the process.

Are you worried that someone has messed up your computer? Here are clues someone has snooped on.

Bonus tip: Save your texts where you need to place the router, protect your nude photos

I have received a lot of good advice in this section of Kim Komando Today. First, you will learn how to never lose a text message again. I also want to tell you how to protect your nude photos from hackers. (This was based on a real listening question!) Plus, where to place your router for the best Wi-Fi, how to find spyware and a few other technical tips that will make your digital life easier.

Check out my “Kim Komando Today” podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Command.”

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s National Radio Program and press or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or click or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Learn about all the latest technology at The Kim Komando Show, the country’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim accepts calls and advises on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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