Spyware is sold legally in the United States. This software records chats, emails, browsing history, usernames, passwords, and basically everything a person does on that PC. Some spyware programs can record everything in a video file, which can then be accessed remotely.
This is all perfectly legal as long as the PC’s owner installs the software. It is illegal to install spyware on a computer that is not your own.
Spyware can be great if, for example, you want to monitor your twelve-year-old daughter who obsessively chats online, or your employees whose lack of productivity has you wondering if they’re watching YouTube all day.
Spyware also comes in the form of a virus, which essentially does the same thing. When you click a malicious link or install a program that is infected with malicious software, several different types of spyware can be installed as well.
Spyware can also take the form of a keylogger or keycatcher, a USB device similar to a USB flash drive, which can connect to a PC and piggyback the keyboard connection. Keycatchers have a made a splash in schools, where students plug them into the back of teachers’ PCs, trying to get test information ahead of time.
In England, two keyloggers were found plugged into public library computers. This would have allowed whoever planted the USB devices to access a record of activity on the compromised computers. “It’s unclear who placed the snooping devices on the machines but the likely purpose was to capture banking login credentials on the devices prior to their retrieval and use in banking fraud.”
Keep in mind that anyone with special access to a computer, including friends, family, and employees, poses the main threat. A cleaning person or security guard could always be paid to install spyware in order to record sensitive data.
Check your USB ports to make sure there are no mysterious devices attached to your PC. Prevent unauthorized password installation by password protecting the administrator account on your PC.
Only download files from trusted websites, and avoid torrents and software cracks, which are often seeded with spyware.
Never click “Agree,” “OK,” “No,” or “Yes” in a popup. Instead, hit the red X or shut down your browser by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Delete.
Keep your operating system’s security patches updated, and be sure to install the latest, most secure version of your browser. And Run McAfee Total Protection, including spyware removal.
McAfee Identity Protection includes proactive identity surveillance to monitor subscribers’ credit and personal information and access to live fraud resolution agents who can help subscribers work through the process of resolving identity theft issues. For additional tips, please visit http://www.counteridentitytheft.com
Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing spyware on Fox Boston.