A reader's estranged husband told her he's spying on her email. Could this be true?
It's possible, but unlikely. And if he's doing it, it's almost certainly illegal.
My hunch is that he's lying in order to mess with your head. After all, it's much easier to tell someone that you're spying on them then to actually do it. And it doesn't carry the same legal ramifications.
Besides, if he was really spying on you, why would he tell you? Doing so would likely make you more careful about what you do online, get you to take steps to block his surveillance, and possibly get him arrested.
But what if he really is spying on you? After all, you want to be sure.
If he has--or might have--your email password, you should assume that he's reading your mail. But this is easy to fix. Simply change your password.
You might also consider your presence on social networking sites. If you haven't done so already, unfriend him in Facebook. Consider the possibility that one of your other "friends" may be sharing information with him, or might actually be him using an alias. Weed out any that you're not sure you can trust. Then check your privacy settings to make sure you're not letting out unwanted information. Do the same for any other social networking sites.
I very much doubt that he put surveillance software on your PC. I took a close look at one particularly well-respected program, Spector Pro (no relation to my family). Intended for employers who need to keep tabs on the use of company computers, and for parents protecting their children, Spector Pro can report back on just about anything done on your PC. You can install it in stealth mode, which allegedly hides it very effectively.
But Spector Pro wouldn't do him much good, and not only because such a use violates the licensing agreement. For one thing, monitoring your computer use would only be possible with physical access to your PC or to a PC on the same local network. For another, I found that the program's stealth mode isn't all it's cracked up to be. The free SUPERAntiSpyware Portable Scanner identified and disabled SpectorPro easily.
The lesson: If your regular security software doesn't find surveillance software, try a few other malware scanners and run them in Safe Mode. If they don't find anything, it's probably not there.
But if you're still scared, there are two sure ways to free your PC of spouse-installed spyware:
1) Reinstall Windows from scratch. See Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data for details.
2) Get a lawyer.
Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter.