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I came across the web page that I found you on in the attempt to find information out if there is a possibility that my husband who I am in the middle of a nasty divorce could have, sometime since he moved out 2 years ago, put a spy program on my computer. I know it is possible, but am wondering how I can find if he has been monitoring my activity on the computer. In the past I know while he was in the residence he had put a program on and I found out by him showing me what he had done. When he moved out, I had the computer basically stripped down and reloaded and all programs supposedly were erased. I did purchase E. Blaster thinking he might be using that program but it loaded so I would assume that he is not using that program. Could there be another? Some computer technicians do not want to even get involved because they have told me that they do not want to be involved in a court case. I just need direction on where I should start or where I might find someone to investigate my computer and see if they can find any trace of him doing this.

I can understand a normal technician not wanting to get involved. But I also understand that it might take some money, money that most of us might not have, to actually find someone to do the detailed analysis, and then testify to it in court.

So what should you do?

Depending on what you mean by "stripped down and reloaded", that might well have been the very best thing you could have done. Basically if it involved both reformatting the hard disk(s) and reinstalling Windows, that's exactly what I would do myself, and feel quite ok about it.

Most anti-spyware programs will actually catch these kinds of things. While they're targeted at commercial spyware (things that insert ads, or redirect you to other sites and the like), they actually are also looking for true "spy" ware as well, as the name implies. Unfortunately not all anti-spyware programs catch all spyware, but running at least one, if not a couple every so often could give you a higher level of confidence. This article has more on the generalities: Spyware: How do I remove and avoid spyware?.

"...if it involved both reformatting the hard disk(s) and reinstalling Windows, that's exactly what I would do myself, and feel quite ok about it."

Sadly there are no guarantees, since I can't see or get at the specifics of your situation, but hopefully these general guidelines will help. After all that if you really do still suspect that he's spying on you, then it might be worth the extra effort and cost of tracking down a professional who can help you in your specific situation. In most cases, it'll take a private investigator who's up on technology, or perhaps law enforcement if you can get their attention.

Article C2654 - May 13, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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16 Comments
Bill P. Godfrey
May 14, 2006 5:09 AM

Its possible he put a hardware keylogger on. If so, a hard disk wipe would not remove that.

I'd find that possibility unlikely, as he would need to get local access to the computer to read any information back.

Another thing to check for would be that when she took a copy of files she wanted to keep before the HD wipe, she did not take any executable files along. Instead re-installing software from trusted sources.

billpg.me.uk

Debbie
August 7, 2007 10:19 PM

you didn't answer her question. I have the same problem, but unfortunately mine did have access, because my daughter wanted something loaded down. But all of sudden he has information only I know of. How do I know he hasn't down loaded a keylogger or remote program.

clare
November 7, 2007 9:20 PM

Got a prob, recently split from partner, and changed my e-mail address, however, during a conversation, he told me details of e-mails that I had not yet opened, he had read them and when I asked how he said he had ways and means, but how did he know my password.

Laurel Hart
February 8, 2008 9:44 AM

my daughter caught her husband cheating by using spyware called win spy, If you use freeware a little man shows up in the taskbar, but if you pay for it he disappears. When she found out what she needed to know, she confronted him, he asked how she found out and she just said..I hacked into your computer" At the very same time, and older lady friend of mine discovered this little man on the task bar. Coincidentally I asked my daughter about it and found out that the friend's "supposedly" gentleman friend had put it in her computer so that he could monitor her emails from about 400 miles away. these folks are in their late 60's, and they still do it. Now she is getting an occasional memo with his password on it and wonders if there is still something on her computer, she has kicked him to the curb anyway.

jackie b
April 14, 2008 5:28 PM

I have just discovered that my partner who works for a large I.T security provider has installed spyware on our laptop. I accidently discovered the logs and am dismayed to see my Yahoo account password, My password to my company website which gives me access to information about child services that should not be in the public domain.
I shall never feel safe using the computer again.

Kathy
March 21, 2009 7:11 PM

The answer to the question is that you need to hire a licensed private detective that specializes in computer forensics. That way you have what you need to prove in court that your ex or current partner has violated your privacy and the control of your computer returned to you without damage to your computer. Yes, it will cost money for their services and expert testimony. Check with your state's private detective association for a referral.

Karen
March 24, 2009 11:20 AM

My husband runs Adaware every day on my computer. Culd he be covering up a spyware program?

Rob
March 24, 2009 9:00 PM

@Karen: AdAware is a program for detecting and removing adware and spyware that can accumulate on your computer every time you browse the Web. It is not unusual to scan a computer with AdAware daily. I can not say whether or not your husband has installed spying software on your machine, but using AdAware would hinder, not aid, attempts to monitor your computer usage. However, even without any sort of spying software, anyone with unhindered access to your computer can learn a great deal about your internet browsing history, recently edited documents, and other usage history that is automatically saved by your computer's operating system. If your husband performs routine maintenance on your machine, he could easily stumble across some of these details, whether or not he is specifically looking for them. Perhaps you should ask yourself, do you have secrets? Mwaaah-ha-ha-ha-haaa! (Sorry, got carried away there at the end).

Rob's right, running Adaware is not a sign of prying eyes. However if you are concerned, the fact that your husband has physical access to your machine means he could be doing many other things. Only share machines with someone you actually trust.
- Leo
25-Mar-2009

neldon
April 14, 2009 8:08 PM

All this talk about how expensive it is to analyze a computer to see if there is spyware by the spouse. Sure that would cost. Why not just reformat and reinstall. If that still bothers you then hard drives are cheap. Do all this for pennies compared to hiring a geek to pore through your set.

Terry Hollett
April 15, 2009 4:47 AM

I would reccomend a program called "Hijackthis". It shows you everthing working in the background and allows you the opportunity to delete things manually.

Warning its not an automatic scanner and can get a bit technical.

download: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/files/hijackthis.php

user guide: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/tutorial42.html

You can also save a log and upload it to a forum so experts can determine what you should remove and not.

message forum: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/forum22.html

You have to register first but its Free.

http://www.geocities.com/terryhollett2003/

Joan
May 19, 2009 11:11 AM

Easy. Hit your computer with a hammer so it doesn't work anymore... and GO BUY A NEW ONE. Then, YOU be the first person to add a spyware program and you'll be able to see if anyone installs anything on it trying to spy on you....

Russell
June 1, 2009 2:25 PM

My girlfriend seems to have the same issues with her ex. with what is written above. It's ok buying a new computer but when a number of programmes are web based ie MSN, AOL etc what do you do. I have adviced keep changing the password but will this really help.

ray
October 16, 2009 4:06 PM

If someone pays for spyware, which can be quite expensive, then it COULD be virtually impossible to detect it as there are really good programs out that can copy EVERY KEY stroke you make, which would give the offender passwords, account info., etc. BUT........ buying a new computer and putting spyware on yourself is the best solution to never being the victim again. Especially if the alleged offender will NOT have access to your new computer. It is VERY difficult and technical to INSTALL spyware WITHOUT having access to the victim's computer. Meaning to do it just from the net, very difficult and highly technical, especially when you already have antispyware on the pc - HOWEVER, when a person has access to your computer they can log on, download the spyware program they purchased to this "target computer" and then hide it or in most cases, especially if the program was expensive, the program will hide itself!! The offender can then log in to their account at the site of the program they purchased and see every key stroke you typed, knowing email contents, passwords, etc. Hope that helps.

Judy
December 28, 2009 3:32 PM

Spy Vector has the ability to be hidden in a picture or a text file. When the vistim opens the file, the spy has access to keystrokes, passwords, web history, even screen by screen shots of every page the victim went to!

And anti virus programs do not always find them, they are installed in 'stealth mode"

My sister had that Vector and you had to type shift+ctrl+alt+v or she could chance the v do whatever she wanted.

ANyway, I am looking for a program that will seek out and remove stealth programs such as this.
Any ideas?

Judy

Ed
January 6, 2011 12:00 PM

If you are running an anti-virus program such as Norton, when someone installs spyware they must put an "exception" in your anti-virus program. So, check the expections tag on your anti-virus program to find out if there's something there that shouldn't be.

faren
June 11, 2011 8:14 AM

That is very useful information. Thanks

I also found more at this website: http://pcmash.com/software/how-do-i-know-if-my-somewone-installed-spy-software-my-computer

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