What is spy software?

Spy software is a generic term for various kinds of programs designed to monitor the user activity on a certain computer. Some programs can send collected data to another machine via e-mail or network connection, other just write it to a hidden file on the same computer.

Is there any difference between spy software and computer monitoring software?

IBoth these names can be used to describe the same kind of programs. But some people say that the difference lies in the fact that spy software works without detection and computer activity monitoring programs warn the user that his activity is monitored. But the border between these two kinds of software is very vague.

Is spy software illegal?

No, there is nothing illegal about spy software itself. The vast majority of its developers are law-abiding people who create their programs exclusively for legitimate purposes. There are many situations when monitoring the computer activity is perfectly legal: the parents can use key loggers to protect their children from online abuse, the companies may use Internet monitoring software to ensure that their employees don't misuse corporate Internet connection and so on.

Of course some people can use the very same software for stealing passwords, credit card numbers or corporate secrets. However, even in this situation it's not the software that breaks the law, but the person using it. There are also uses that are not strictly illegal, but have some moral ambiguity to them (for example, a computer activity monitor may be used to catch in the act a cheating spouse).

Do I break any law by using computer activity monitors?

It depends on the way you use them. In most cases you have the right to install any programs on the computer that belongs to you. You also have the right to install programs on other peoples' computers if you have their permission. Installing a monitoring program on another person's computer without his/her permission may be illegal. We will not try to give you any advice on the legal side of computer activity monitoring because everything depends on your particular situation. If you are in doubt, consult your lawyer.

Can spy software be used for any legitimate purposes?

Yes, sure. Here are just a few examples of perfectly legal uses of computer activity monitoring tools. You can:

  • Monitor your children's online activity to make sure they don't visit pornographic Web sites or don't make any dubious acquaintances.
  • Ensure no one is accessing your personal files while you are away from the computer.
  • Keep track of the inexperienced users' activity to quickly locate the problem if they damage any system files.
  • Monitor your employees' computer activity to make sure they are really working and don't do anything that may be a source of legal problems for you.
  • Find out if someone uses your computer while you are away.

What kinds of computer activity can spy software monitor?

Virtually any. It can record keystrokes, make series of screenshots, record sounds, keep track of visited Web sites and launched programs, make copies of sent and received emails, monitor which movie and sound files are played on the system, keep track of the files that are opened and viewed and more. There are the Swiss Army Knife-style programs capable of performing the majority of these tasks and there are more specialized tools that monitor only specific kinds of computer activity (for example key loggers are used for recording all keys pressed by the user).

Do I need physical access to the machine I want to install a computer activity monitor on?

In most cases you need. There are programs that act somewhat like Trojan horses, but the majority of computer activity monitoring tools cannot be installed without physical access to the machine.

Can a user find out that he is being monitored?

Almost all computer monitors work in the stealth mode. They are not visible in the task list, they don't appear in the registry and are not shown in the standard startup areas. Even a very experienced user won't be able to detect them unless he uses special detection software.

I need a computer activity monitor, where can I get one?

A good place to start your search with is https://www.spyarsenal.com. This site offers free and easy to use key loggers and Internet monitoring tools.