Stalkers keen on spyware

Stalking is a major problem in cases of domestic separation — and now spyware is becoming an increasingly common weapon in the stalker’s arsenal, according to a private detective agency.

Southampton, Mass.-based Intertrace Investigations Group (IIG) recently issued a press release detailing what it claims is a growing problem: estranged spouses who use computer activity monitoring programs to capture screenshots or record keystrokes, e-mail and chat sessions, Web sites visited, instant messages and passwords on their ex-partners’ computers.

“Basically anything done on the computer will be recorded and stored in a file,” the release said. “The more popular versions of this spyware software will e-mail all of these results to a remote computer at scheduled days and times with all of this done in stealth mode without your knowledge. Making the detection of this software even more difficult is (the fact) that some of these programs can rename themselves and change their location at random or uninstall themselves at a preset time.”

IIG listed some recent court cases involving digital stalking:

• A woman from El Mirage, Ariz., was sentenced to 60 days of home detention after pleading guilty to intercepting her husband’s e-mails from his ex-wife at least 215 times.

• A Michigan man was charged with four felony counts of using a computer to eavesdrop and installing the eblaster software on his estranged wife’s computer.

• In Williston, Penn., a man was ordered to stand trial on charges that included unlawful use of a computer, access-device fraud and interception, and disclosure or use of electronic communications after he installed a computer monitoring program called Supersave on a computer he bought for his wife before their separation.

IIG offers a spyware tracking service to complement its regular undercover decoy and cheating spouse investigations. The IIG Web site says the company’s owner Robert Pac appears regularly on the Ricki Lake talk show. Lake has named him “Private Investigator Extraordinaire” because of his ability to expose cheaters, the site said.

Online stalking signs

Wondering whether you’re being cyber-stalked? Here’s IIG’s list of warning signs:

-Your computer is running slower than usual and is using 100 per cent of its CPU cycle by an unknown program;

-Your hard drive space is used up or you get a message that your virtual memory is low;

-You find a small unknown cylindrical piece of hardware attached to the keyboard cable on the back of your computer;

-Antispyware monitoring programs don’t work — they crash and shut your computer down or give you error messages;

-Someone “accidentally” spilled something in your keyboard and replaced it with a new one;

-Someone you know has intimate details of your private conversations;

-Someone you know “just happens” to bump into you on a regular basis at private places or events.

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