Originally posted on usatoday.
Our devices hold our digital lives. All those photos, videos, documents, messages and emails contain some highly personal information.
That’s why locking down your tech the right way is essential. Have you ever wondered whether a PIN, fingerprint or face ID is the safest way to lock your smartphone? I reveal the answer here on Komando.com.
When it comes to your computer or tablet, you need to make sure outsiders aren’t tapping in. Here are seven clear-cut signs your computer is infected with a keylogger or virus.
How can you tell if someone inside your home is accessing your files and applications without your knowledge? Is someone using your computer behind your back? Thankfully, there are ways to find out.
Check your PC’s recent items
A quick note before we get started: The exact steps may vary depending on which version of Windows, macOS or iPad OS you use. If you can’t find an item below, use your device’s search tool to look for the function by name.
So someone’s been poking around your computer or tablet, opening your files and applications left and right. There are bound to be traces of it, right? Correct. There are quick and easy ways to view recently accessed files, folders and even applications.
With these tools, if you notice an item you don’t remember opening, that’s a sure sign someone has accessed your system without your knowledge. Here’s how you view your recent items:
On a PC:
- Press Windows + R. Type in “recent” and hit enter. This step will show a list of files that were recently opened. If you see something on this list that you don’t remember opening, someone may have been poking around your computer.
On a Mac:
- To see recent items, click on the Apple logo on the left-hand side of the menu bar. Hover your mouse over Recent Items. You’ll see the 10 most recent items accessed in three categories: Applications, Documents and Servers.
- To see recent folders, open a Finder window. While the window is active, click Go on the menu bar. Hover your mouse over Recent Folders. Like Recent Items, you’ll see the 10 folders that were most recently accessed.
On an iPad:
- Open the Files app. Tap Recents at the bottom of the screen.
On an Amazon Fire tablet:
- Tap on the Docs button on the home screen to open the document library. Browse by Recent.
Check your web browser’s history
Another good place to check for unauthorized access is browsing activity. Although a savvy user can always use a web browser’s Incognito or Private mode or delete browsing history, it doesn’t hurt to review.
- Click the three vertical dots on the upper-right side of your Chrome window. Hover on History for the most recent sites visited. Click History to see a full list.
- Click the View history, saved bookmarks and more icon on the menu bar. (It looks like a row of books). Click on History.
- Select the three-dot menu for Settings and more. Choose History, then Manage history.
- Open Safari. On the Apple menu bar, click History > Show All History.
Review recent logins
To see all the login activities on your PC, use Windows Event Viewer. This tool will show you all Windows services that have been accessed and logins, errors and warnings.
To access the Windows Event Viewer, click the search icon and type in Event Viewer. Click Windows Logs, then choose Security.
This will show you a list of all the login events on your PC. Under the Event ID column, look for the number 4624 for standard logons, 4672 for administrative logons and 4634 for logoffs. Click the entry for additional details and check if another user has logged in to your system while you’re away.
On a Mac, you can use the Console tool to check if someone attempted to wake your computer while it’s locked or in sleep mode.
To access this tool, use Spotlight Search (command + space), then look for the word Console, then press enter. On the Console window, click All Messages. In the search field in the upper-right side of the window, type “wake” to see all the relevant events and their timestamps.
How to stop others using your computer or tablet
The most basic security step is essential to keep others out: Lock your computer or tablet with a strong password when you’re not using it.
The lock screen suspends your activities and protects your work from would-be visual snoopers without completely shutting your computer down. On Windows, you can use the shortcut Windows key + L to lock your PC quickly.
On a Mac, you can use the shortcut Control + Shift + Eject (Control + Shift + Power button on Macs without disk drives) or Control + Command + Q to lock it quickly. You can also click on the Apple logo on the menu bar and select Lock Screen.
Note: Make sure you set your Mac’s security options to require the password immediately after it’s locked. You can set this by opening System Preferences > Security & Privacy.
While you’re at it, update your password to something more complex. It’s easy to fall into the trap of setting an elementary password on our home desktop or laptop, and I bet at least some of you lock down your tablet with “1234” or similar.
Unique, complex passwords take more time to create, but they keep your information safe from anyone who wants to snoop around. Of course, you also need an excellent way to remember them.
And then there’s keyloggers
Keyloggers are programs that exist solely to capture information coming from your keyboard. They’re one tool hackers can use to steal your information, but companies, parents and even enterprising spouses can install them on your tech.
They come in software and hardware form and are not something to take lightly. Physical keyloggers are easy to hide inside computers, and you would never know. They can also sit on wires and cables, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can easily miss it. Fortunately, these external keyloggers are limited in what they can do.
How can you spot them? Hardware keyloggers come in many forms, including a USB stick, cable or wall charger. Check your computer for anything that looks out of place or that you don’t remember plugging in.
Unfortunately, the software counterparts are just as hard, if not harder, to detect. Plus, they can do a lot more damage. Luckily for you, you can use software to detect keyloggers on a Mac or PC.
Now that you know the tricks of the trade, you can spot someone snooping through your tech. What you do with that information is up to you.