To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

catcomputer   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your ComputerIt is a well known fact that a high percentage of identity thefts are done by family, friends (I use this word loosely) and acquaintances.  We’ve all heard the cases where someone who the victim knows gets a hold of their personal information somehow and wreaks havoc with their credit.  This can be done several ways including getting a hold of credit card offers (or other personal mail), snooping in purses or wallets, and even snooping on the victim’s computer.

A lot of those incidents can be avoided simply by taking care of your personal items.  Computers are no exception.


There are ways how to tell if someone has been on your computer and to keep prying eyes away from your computer in your home.  You can secure it with a USB drive, Windows logon password, or even a BIOS password.  You can also lock programs and even word documents.  However, as with most security attempts, there’s usually a way around them.  Security is basically a deterrent and the more work you make for a snoop, the less likely you are to become a victim.

OK, so you’ve taken precautions, to the best of your ability, to keep snooping people off your home computer but for some reason you believe someone’s been on there anyhow.  Did you know there are ways to tell if someone’s been on there and, to an extent, what they’ve been up to?  Your job of snooping on this snoop can be either difficult or easy, depending on how well they cover their tracks.  Let’s go through some methods of snooping on a snoop.

Check Recent Items Opened

recent items   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

Depending on your Windows version, you have a menu item named something similar to “Recent Items.”  This is a quick and easy way to tell what files have been opened recently.  Be aware that if the snoop has his head on straight, he could clear this.  However, if it’s cleared, you know someone has been on there, too.

Check Recently Modified Files

You can search for recently modified files in the advanced search window.  Just set the location to search (all hard drives might be a good start) and the date you want to search back to.

modifiedfiles   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

Make sure you set it to search for “Date modified.”

Check Which Programs Have Been Opened Recently

Some Windows versions give you a list of recently used programs as soon as you click on the Start button (meant to make them more accessible).

recent programs   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

You can also use the Event Viewer for some recent activity, including programs opened and the last time the computer was booted up.  Go to the start menu and click “Run” and type “eventvwr.msc” and click “OK.”

1 3 Logs   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

For more help figuring out how to use the Event Viewer, check out this article by Saikat which explains how to use it to solve Windows problems.  It’ll help you get a handle on the viewer which will help you in finding out what a snoop could have been up to.

Check Internet Browsing Histories

What browsers do you have on your computer?  Check them all for Internet activity to see if someone’s been going online with it.  In Firefox, there is a History menu item.

firefox history   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

In Google Chrome you click on the picture of the wrench at the top-right corner of the screen and click History in the dropdown menu.

chrome history   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

In Internet Explorer, click the yellow star and choose the History tab.

ie history   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

Many snoops are smart enough to clear the browsing history.  Nowadays on some browsers they can choose which history to delete or go completely incognito and browse privately altogether.  It is for these reasons that this method will work only for the careless snoop.

Install Tracking Software

k9   To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

If you are wondering if there is an ongoing problem, install tracking software.  Varun mentions visikid in an article about parental control software.  You can also use other software such as K9 Web Protection to see a log of internet activity and even turn off the internet during specified times.  Then there is the infamous keylogger (which often gets a bad rap because hackers often use them for gathering information) for keeping up with snoops on your personal computer.

So if you are suspecting that a visitor (or even a current resident) of your home is snooping and you are fearing something bad (like your ID being stolen) is going to happen, now you have 5 routes to take to make sure nothing wrong is going on.  This way you can curtail it before the bad stuff happens.

Do you have any more tips to help sniff out a snoop?  Share in the comments.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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12 Comments -

Doink @ Designioustimes.com

I got my WoW account hacked last year. Since then, i always keep Spybot Search & Destroy open.

Ana YourNetBiz Mentor

It came as a shock to me that the worst identity theft offenders are people we know. Can’t we trust anyone these days?

Ana Hoffman

Traffic Generation Cafe

It came as a shock to me that the worst identity theft offenders are people we know. Can’t we trust anyone these days?

Ana Hoffman

timmyjohnboy

Scary, isn’t it? It’s good practice to keep personal stuff out of reach just to keep temptation from those who might take advantage.

Alex

I’m still surprised at how many people leave their computer logged on and auto-fill their passwords. usually all it takes to “hack” someone’s email, facebook, etc. is to walk up to their computer and log in. that’s why everyone should have their computer set to automatically lock after a few minutes of inactivity and if you’re more paranoid tell your browser to prompt you for a password before it auto-fills.

timmyjohnboy

If you are in danger of people snooping (PC in a public place in the house), perhaps manually locking it whenever you’re done would be a better bet.

Lisa

I’m surprised that file encryption programs like True Crypt and password managers like Keepass weren’t mentioned here. Encrypting sensitive files and managing strong passwords in a secure password vault way would go a long way towards preventing this type of identity theft.

Tim Lenahan

This article was intended to find out if snooping has or has not occurred already, as in a situation where security measures should have been taken but weren’t.

Using encryption and password managers is a good idea though. Thanks for the tip.

timmyjohnboy

This article was intended to find out if snooping has or has not occurred already, as in a situation where security measures should have been taken but weren’t.

Using encryption and password managers is a good idea though. Thanks for the tip.

Bob Stromberg

Is there a similar article for the Mac? For Linux?

Simon Slangen

Hi Bob,

For Mac OS X…

You can check recently opened files and applications via the Apple menu (top-left) -> Recent Items.

For the most recently modified files, both Finder and Spotlight aren’t too reliable ; not even all folders are indexed. Instead, run the Terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal) with the following command: “find ~ -type f -ctime -1 | more“.

This will look for all files recently adjusted in the specified directory in the terminal – by default, probably, your home folder. For example, “find ~/Documents -type f -ctime -0 | more” will then be limited to your Documents folder. Adjust “ctime -1″ to specify the number of 24-hour cycles that need to be included.

Checking internet browsing histories is similar to Windows.

K9 Web Protection also works on Mac OS X.

Hope this helps. Cheers.

Tim Lenahan

Thanks for helping here. I’m not too familiar with Macs and Linux.

Yes, browsing history should be at least similar in the mentioned OSs.

Simon Slangen

Hi Bob,

For Mac OS X…

You can check recently opened files and applications via the Apple menu (top-left) -> Recent Items.

For the most recently modified files, both Finder and Spotlight aren’t too reliable ; not even all folders are indexed. Instead, run the Terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal) with the following command: “find ~ -type f -ctime -1 | more“.

This will look for all files recently adjusted in the specified directory in the terminal – by default, probably, your home folder. For example, “find ~/Documents -type f -ctime -0 | more” will then be limited to your Documents folder. Adjust “ctime -1″ to specify the number of 24-hour cycles that need to be included.

Checking internet browsing histories is similar to Windows.

K9 Web Protection also works on Mac OS X.

Hope this helps. Cheers.

timmyjohnboy

Thanks for helping here. I’m not too familiar with Macs and Linux.

Yes, browsing history should be at least similar in the mentioned OSs.