How to Thwart a High-Tech Spy

What to do when someone seems to know too much about you

by Darren Braun

Darren Braun

Keep a log of suspicious interactions--noting dates, times and locations--and use it to discern patterns that suggest which aspects of your life are being monitored. If you're dealing with a potential snoop, not a stalker, consider implementing the countermeasures suggested below. But be careful. If you think you may be in danger, contact the police or an advocate. And don't add protective measures to your computer if you may want to file criminal charges, because e-mails and other digital files can serve as evidence. Find more info at the Stalking Resource Center: www.ncvc.org/src.

If you think your computer is being watched: Someone may have sneaked surveillance software onto your computer. Reformat your hard drive, then reinstall your operating system, programs and documents. Install a spy-software detector such as Spybot (free; spybot.info), then change all passwords and PINs. Extra-paranoid? Plug in a device such as APC's Biometric Password Manager ($50; apc.com), which lets only someone with your fingerprint (that is, you) log on. If someone appears to be accessing your computer remotely, make sure your Wi-Fi network's security is turned on, then install a firewall and antivirus software to ensure that only trusted files move in and out. One to try: ZoneAlarm Security Suite ($60; zonelabs.com).

If you think your home has been bugged: Wireless bugs and cameras emit radio signals that can be picked up by "bug detectors." Check out the Bug Scanner ($98; spyshopsinc.com) or the Mini Sure Lock II ($4,400; quarkresearch.com). Buyer beware--cheap debuggers scan only a small frequency range and can register false positives from household electronics.

If you think your phone has been tapped: Some telephone-surveillance devices can be detected
using the aforementioned bug sweepers. But someone really serious about listening in can place a device at the spot where your phone line connects to the main line for the neighborhood. Have a technician check it out.

If you think your car is being tracked: Radio-frequency tracking devices can be found by bug detectors, but there's no high-tech way to expose the GPS devices that can be attached by magnet to your
vehicle. Still, you can seek them out the old-fashioned way [see "Taking the Low Road"].