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How to Know If Someone Is Spying on Your Computer

Are you being watched? Using covert tools and techniques, hackers can spy on your private data—or access your device—right before your eyes. But you can fight back. Learn how to spot and prevent cyber spies from prying into your computer—then use Clario’s AntiSpy for an all-in-one solution for all sorts of hacker tricks.

Table of contents

Signs someone is spying on your computer

Though it’s difficult to always know if someone is spying on your computer, there are telltale signs. Spyware and other forms of malware almost always affect your hardware, leading to poor device and app performance or just generally strange behavior.

 

Here are the signs someone is spying on your computer:

Now let’s unpack these spying signs:

Battery drains too fast

If you notice a considerable difference in your device’s battery life, it could hint at spying. Background spying apps and processes can drain your battery. But a quickly draining battery could also be due to your own personal device usage or a device that’s getting older. Be sure to rule out those factors first.

Computer often overheats

An overheating computer deals with more computing activity than it can handle—and possibly spying apps and processes. To assess whether the activity causing your overheating issue is due to you or spying, check your task manager or activity monitor for anything out of the ordinary (more on that below).

Apps are acting up

If your apps suddenly behave strangely (randomly shut down or lag), you might be dealing with computer spying. How to tell if someone is spying on your phone? Assessing app behavior is one way to do it. Unauthorized access or unusual network activity due to spying can affect your otherwise normally functioning apps.

Slow speeds

Slow speeds mean that your device storage is full or is overwhelmed with computing tasks. Either of these causes could be due to spying apps or unauthorized device access. If your device storage is near capacity, clear up space—and if you are still experiencing slow speeds, you might be dealing with spying.

Webcam is recording without your permission

If your webcam suddenly records without your permission, it’s likely due to unauthorized device access. Legitimate apps and programs always ask for your permission before using your webcam.

Erratically flashing lights

Flashing lights are a sign of device activity. Though this activity can be due to normal device usage, erratically flashing lights—especially if you’re not engaged in any heavy computing tasks—indicates that spy apps or processes may be running in the background.

Strange and frequent pop-ups on your desktop

Hackers try to trick you into downloading spyware. Sometimes pop-ups that claim to be anti-spy apps or notifications, are actually spyware in disguise. They con you into clicking them with “notifications” that your device is infected or that you urgently need protection. Legitimate spy tools will never use emotional language to persuade you.

Sudden homepage change

If your homepage suddenly changes on your web browser, it may be due to unauthorized device access. Hackers and spies may change your homepage to a malware-ridden website or a site that offers fake malware solutions or scams.

Browser keeps redirecting

If your browser frequently redirects your web traffic to irrelevant search results or unsafe websites, it could be a sign that you’ve been hacked. A browser hijacker may also be the culprit. This type of malware will redirect your web traffic to unsafe websites—often to generate ad revenue.

Unknown programs installed on the computer

Unknown programs can be installed by hackers accessing your computer—or if you accidentally download malware-infected files or programs. Either way, these programs are unsafe and should be completely removed from your device.

Suspicious browser activity

Suspicious browser activity indicates that someone is trying to get to your data. Your browser is the gateway to your online identity, and hackers can use tools like keyloggers, browser hijackers, and screen capture to steal your personal data.

Ransomware attack message

A ransomware attack message is a clear sign that someone has stolen your data—if the message is real. Though sometimes hackers can bluff to get you to pay the ransom, you should treat these messages seriously. It’s advised not to pay the ransom and contact the proper authorities to help get your data back.

The task manager or activity monitor is disabled

A disabled task manager or activity monitor is a common sign of malware infection. These applications are designed to give you an overview of what programs are running on your computer—and can help you target malware. Some malware will disable these apps to avoid detection.

Programs start randomly

Some types of malware will automatically start up unwanted programs when you boot your computer. Often these programs are dangerous, like adware, browser hijackers, and other malware.

How to detect and remove spyware on your computer?

Spyware is designed to steal your private information to cause further harm to you and your contacts. Stopping the threat, swiftly and completely, will help stop the attack from spreading.

 

Here’s how to detect and remove spyware on your computer:

Now let’s explore these solutions in more detail:

Check for suspicious processes through Task Manager

Checking for suspicious processes can help you identify and stop spyware. Often spyware runs as a background process on your system to steal your data without detection. Task manager programs help you detect the low-key processes of spyware threats.

 

Here’s how to check for suspicious processes through Task Manager on Windows:

  1. Press and hold: Control + Shift + Escape to open Task Manager
  2. Assess which background processes take up the most CPU power and verify them.
Windows Task manager displaying a list of apps and their processes in order of CPU power usage.

Here’s how to check for suspicious processes through Activity Monitor on macOS:

  1. Press: Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight
  2. Search and select: “Activity Monitor
  3. Assess which process names take up the most CPU percentage and verify them.
macOS Activity monitors displaying a list of process names in order of their CPU power usage.

What to do if your computer is hacked? If you’ve detected spyware on your computer, it’s crucial that you remove it immediately.

Use a trusted antivirus

Trusted antivirus apps are designed to check your computer for spyware and remove it—even those that are hard to detect. Plus, they are always updated to keep up with the latest threats. The best antivirus programs are often coupled with other cybersecurity tools to provide comprehensive protection.

View active internet connections

If hackers use spyware to monitor your internet activity, you may catch them by checking your active internet connections. Spying tools eat up your internet bandwidth. Getting an overview of your active internet connections can let you spot possible threats.

 

Here’s how to view active internet connections on Windows:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialogue box
  2. Type ‘resmon’ and press Enter to open the Resource Monitor
  3. Click the Network tab in the Resource Monitor
  4. Under the TCP Connections section, you’ll see a list of active internet connections.
Windows Resource Monitor, open on the Network tab, displaying a list of TCP active internet connections.

Here’s how to view active internet connections on macOS:

  1. Press: Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight
  2. Search and select: “Activity Monitor”
  3. Click the Network tab to view active internet connections.
macOS Activity Monitor, under the Network Tab, displaying a list of process names in order of Sent Bytes.

Watch for open ports

As the gateway to the internet, hackers can exploit your computer ports—especially if you have too many open. Your computer programs use various ports to connect you to different parts of the internet. But if you have too many open ports, you increase your attack surface.

 

Here’s how to check open ports on Windows:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialogue box
  2. Type ‘resmon’ and press Enter to open the Resource Monitor
  3. Click the Network tab in the Resource Monitor
  4. Under the Listening Ports section, you’ll see a list of open ports.
Windows Resource Monitor, open on the Network tab, displaying a list of Listening Ports.

Here’s how to check open ports on macOS:

  1. Press: Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight
  2. Search and select: “Network Utility”
  3. Click the Port Scan tab. Enter your IP address (you can use a free tool to find your IP address), then click Scan.
  4. After the scan, the tool will display a list of open ports.
macOS Network Utility app, open on the Port Scan tab, running an scan for open ports for a specific IP address.

Format your hard drive

If your computer is ridden with spyware and other forms of malware, you can get a clean start by formatting your hard drive. Spyware is increasingly difficult to detect and remove, so sometimes, formatting your hard drive is the most effective solution. This process will wipe away anything saved on your hard drive (including malware)—unless you made a backup.

 

Here’s how to format a hard drive on Windows:

  1. Press the Windows key + X on your keyboard and select Disk Management from the pop-up window
  2. In the Disk Management window, locate the hard drive you want to format
  3. Right-click on the drive and click Format
  4. In the Format window, choose the File System (usually NTFS) and the Volume Label (name of the drive)
  5. Click OK. You will be warned all data will be lost. Confirm.

Here’s how to format a hard drive on macOS:

  1. Press: Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight
  2. Search and select: “Disk Utility”
  3. In the Disk Utility window, locate the drive you wish to format from the left column
  4. From the top toolbar, click Erase
  5. In the Erase dialogue box, choose the format (usually APFS) from the dropdown menu You can change the volume name too
  6. Click Erase to start the formatting process. Confirm.
A Disc Utility window showing how to format a hard drive on macOS

How to protect your computer from spying

Prevention is the best strategy against spying and malware. Hacker tools are increasingly sophisticated and it’s getting hard to tell if someone is spying on your computer. It’s better to avoid threats altogether than to fight off an attack that evades detection.

 

Here’s how to protect your computer from spying:

Let’s delve deeper into these protective measures:

Install an antivirus program

An antivirus program can scan your computer for spyware and stop a threat in its tracks. Also, quality antivirus software will keep up with the latest hackers' tools and techniques to ensure total protection against various threats.

Download software only from trusted sources

Unverified software from untrusted sources can contain hidden spyware and other malware. Plus, they can have bugs and glitches that affect your user experience. Steer clear of wonky apps, and only download quality software to ensure a safe and streamlined experience.

Update your system regularly

System updates can contain patches and security updates to protect your computer from the latest threats. Hackers and other bad actors are constantly developing new ways to attack your device and steal your data. Update your system regularly to stay ahead of them.

Avoid suspicious websites

Suspicious websites can contain spyware and links to other dangerous websites or infected files. You can usually identify these websites with their poor grammar and design, invasive pop-ups, or a general sense that something is “off.” Stay clear of these websites. Clario AntiSpy can help you with this and many more.

 

Clario’s AntiSpy features a suite of powerful security tools that work in synergy to protect all your devices and data from spying. It features data breach detection tools and safe browsing to block ads and trackers and stay clear of scratchy websites. Clario AntiSpy works on mobile (iOS, Android) and desktop (Windows, Mac).

 

Here’s how to use the Clario AntiSpy Safe browsing feature:

  1. Download Clario AntiSpy and get a subscription to create an account
  2. On the left-side menu, choose Safe browsing
Clario AntiSpy dashboard showing how to use Safe browsing feature

3. Enable the Clario AntiSpy extension (available for Safari and Chrome)

 

4. Enjoy the four pillars of Clario AntiSpy browsing extension: Web security, Anti-malware protection, Ad-blocker, and Anti-tracking.

Clario AntiSpy browsing extension control center

Use а VPN

A VPN will hide your IP address and encrypt your internet connection to ensure total protection against hackers and other snoops. It’s one of the most powerful tools for cybersecurity and offers other advantages, like bypassing geo-blocking. Clario’s AntiSpy contains a powerful VPN.

Use complex passwords

Complex passwords and two-factor authentication are your first lines of defense to protect your profiles and devices from unauthorized access. Considering how much of our private information is up online, it’s a simple way to prevent spies and hackers from gaining access to it.

Be suspicious of strangers

Just like in real life, be wary of strangers in the cyber realm. Through social engineering, bad actors have a variety of ways to dupe you into giving up sensitive information, device access, and more. Don’t trust anyone you’ve never met in person. And remember: if they seem too good to be true, they probably are.

Don’t open emails from unknown senders

Email is a common way for hackers to send you malware-ridden files or links to unsafe websites. These attackers rely on the fact that people freely open emails from unknown senders. Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Ignore and delete these emails.

Scan your system regularly for viruses

A routine virus scan may help you detect spyware on your computer—as well as other forms of malware. A lot of spyware is designed to avoid detection by running in the background. A virus scan may find spyware on your computer that would have otherwise slipped right past you.

Be attentive to antivirus notifications

Antivirus notifications should never be ignored. They can fill you in on important software updates and even warn you of threats as they occur in real time. These notifications can help you take the necessary steps to immediately prevent a threat from spreading.

Is someone spying on your computer?

It’s not always easy to know if your computer is being monitored. Looking out for the signs of spyware and other malware is a start—but cyberprotection doesn’t end there. A dedicated anti-spy app, like Clario’s AntiSpy, is key for detecting and stopping spies in their tracks.

 

Our comprehensive online security app is designed to protect your desktop and your mobile devices from all kinds of cyber threats. The desktop version will scan for and remove spying threats and malware—plus it features a data breach monitor in case of unauthorized access. Computer spies are crafty; stay one step ahead with Clario’s AntiSpy.

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