We all know that feeling. You’re scrolling through your phone, and it’s there. An ad where you can reconnect a recent conversation with a friend. Tap or click here for simple steps to get advertisers to stop tracking you.
Bad habits can even take away many of your secrets. If you take the easy route and use your Facebook or Google account to log into other websites and apps, get rid of it. Tap or click here to see how much of your data Big Tech and others are getting freely.
Maybe it’s not advertisers or Big Tech followers. This is a check to see if something very sinister is going on – a copy of everything you do on your PC or Mac is being collected and sent to who knows.
1. Check Task Manager or Activity Monitor
Malware comes in many different forms that often behave differently. Some can’t miss – like ransomware – and others keep a low profile.
Spyware is subtle compared to other types of malware. It lurks in your system, tracking every password you enter, every video call you make, and every email you send.
Although these software works stealthily, they still leave traces of breadcrumbs. Your first stop is Task Manager if you’re using a Windows PC or your Activity Monitor on a Mac. Both give you an overview of everything going on on your machine.
PC users: Follow these steps
• Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc. In the Processes tab, you’ll see the apps and background processes running on your PC.
Look through the list. If you see a name you don’t recognize, do a search to see what comes up. Sometimes, these background programs and processes are legitimate and don’t matter, even if you don’t know the name at first glance.
To close the application or process, right-click and press End of mission.
Mac users: Follow these steps
• To open Activity Tracker, tap Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight Search. Then type Activity Monitor and press enter. Check the list for anything you don’t recognize.
To close a program or process, double clickthen hit Give up.
LISTEN: Spyware can be installed by a hacker, a jealous ex, a loved one, or even your boss. In this podcast episode, I dive into how “bossware” works and everything your workplace might know about you and your tech habits.
2. Know what to expect
An indication of a malware infection? The process itself begins. Don’t abbreviate it if an app launches on its own. Take it as a warning sign.
Let’s say you only have a few applications open when you start your computer. If another window appears briefly before shutting down, it could be a spyware program loading. They are designed to disappear, so you won’t notice them, but they can be briefly displayed this way.
By keeping track of what happens when you start your computer, you’ll have a better idea when something weird is going on.
To change the startup application on PC:
• Click Start menu.
• Option Settings (gear icon) and click Application.
• In the menu on the left, click Start up at the bottom.
The Startup panel shows the applications installed on your machine. If Windows has measured the impact of that app on your PC, you’ll see a rating next to that app. Options include No Impact, Low Impact, Medium Impact, and High Impact.
A high-impact application can slow down your startup time. Go through the list and determine which apps you don’t need right after starting up. Toggle each slider next to the app to turn it on or off.
To change the application that starts on a Mac:
• Click Apple menuafterward System Preferences.
• Click Users & Groups.
• Your choice User accountthen click Login Items at the top right.
Here, you’ll see a list of apps that automatically open when you sign in.
To stop the app from running automatically, click Delete a login entry. Then select the name of the app you want to block and click Remove button below the list.
You can use checkboxes to hide items you still want to launch. Hit plus under the list and find it on your computer to add a new item.
What happens when you discover malware on your computer? You need to go to work. Tap or click here for steps to take to protect yourself.
3. Stay up to date
I know. Updates are annoying. They always pop up when you’re busy and you don’t want to deal with the errors and other problems that the latest version of Windows or macOS introduces. However, keeping your system up to date is one of the best ways to keep up with the constant hordes of junk trying to root it into your computer.
To update your Mac:
• Click Apple icon from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
• To hit System Preferences > Software updates.
From here, you can also enable automatic updates by checking the box at the bottom of the window. For more options, click Advanced.
To update your PC:
• Click Start Menu and open Setting.
• Click Update & Security > Windows Update.
You will see if there are updates available to download. If an update is available, click Download and install. If you don’t see an available update, click Check for updates to force the process.
Worried that someone is messing with your computer? This is a clue someone has been snooping on.
Bonus tip: Save your text, where the router is located, protect your nudity
I got a lot of great advice in this episode of Kim Komando Today. First, you’ll learn how to never lose a text message again. I will also tell you how to protect your nudity from hackers. (This is based on a real listener question!) Plus, where to put your router for the best Wi-Fi, how to find spyware, and some other tech tips that will help with life. your digital easier.
Watch my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to podcasts here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Looking for more tech tricks? USA TODAY has you covered.
Learn about all the latest tech on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For daily tips, free newsletter and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of USA TODAY.