Spyware scare and what you can do

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"We’re hearing this more and more," says Ken Colburn, President of Valley based Data Doctors, "Somebody a little tech savvy installs spyware tools to see what their spouse or significant other is doing." And according to Colburn, it’s nearly impossible to detect the software, "These programs are designed to be stealthy, under the radar."

By the time Deanna figured out what was going on, it was too late. She contacted WebWatcher only to find out that she had to pay a $79 fee for them to investigate. That’s when she contacted 3 On Your Side for help.

WebWatcher did eventually agree to refund the $79 but would not release any information about the person who purchased the software saying "( ... )if you would like the results and information of the case, please have a subpoena drawn up."

It’s been a terrifying year for the woman who we will call Deanna. She lives in a very nice, middle class neighborhood. After times got a little tight, she decided to get a roommate to help her pay the mortgage. Deanna didn't do a background check because she says the guy who moved in was someone she knew from church.

"He read the Bible every morning," Deanna tells us, "This was not a person that you would suspect."

Deanna says, on occasion, she let her roommate use her computer. It would take more than a year before she figured out that her roommate had installed a popular software program called WebWatcher.  He had access to her every online move; every key stroke, every password, every web site she visited, her bank account and credit card numbers.

A lot of times the software is used by parents trying to monitor their kids, or by employers. It doesn't show up in your list of programs or on your control panel.

For Deanna, it felt like she was being victimized all over again, "This is being used by the bad guys and then they have access to your every keystroke."

For more advice on how to detect this type of software on your computer, see these tips and additional information from Ken Colburn. 

The most common sign of potential infection is a slow computer, especially when initially opening a browser. The quickest way to check a Windows computer for excess processes is to press Ctrl-Alt-Del which will open the Task Manager. In the bottom left corner will be the number of processes running,

Anything more than 35-40 processes on a Desktop computer and 40-45 on a laptop computer could be an indication of hidden malware. More specifics along with an image of the processes screen are available here

My advice column on what to do with excess processes is posted here.