Tech Q&A: Checking for spyware, photo privacy, viruses and more

Categories: Tech Tips
Tags: No Tags
Comments: No Comments
Published on: December 15, 2014



File photo. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

Check your PC for government spyware

Q. I was listening to your national radio show and was intrigued by your discussion of how governments use malware for spying. Is there a way for me to check my PC for such spying software?

A. It’s no great secret that governments use advanced spyware to monitor people. These spy programs read your email, listen to calls, record every single thing you type, track where you go online and can even watch you through your camera. Two of the most popular programs are FinFisher and Hacking Team RCS. They’re designed to be invisible, but there are ways to spot them. Click here to learn how to check your PC for hidden government surveillance software.

Keep party photos private

Q. I’d love to post my holiday party photos on Facebook, but I don’t want my crazy jealous ex to see them. How do I do that?

A. If you have your privacy settings set correctly, any new thing you post — including pictures — will be visible only to your friends. You did unfriend your ex, right? An easy way to check your privacy settings is to go to your profile page. Next to “View Activity Log,” click the three dots and select “View As…” This lets you view your profile as someone else would see your profile. You can tell at a glance what is visible to a specific person or the public in general, so you can go hide it. For good measure, click here for my step-by-step guide to lock down your Facebook account.

Can you get a smartphone virus?

Q. I got a virus once on my computer and it was a nightmare. Can the same thing happen on my smartphone?

A. Smartphones can download malicious apps, which can work just like a computer virus for stealing information, sending spam or just causing crashes. Fortunately, malicious apps are a bit easier to avoid on smartphones than computer viruses. The main rule is to download only apps from your phone’s official app store, and to make sure they’re from a reputable developer. So, for example, don’t install an app from a link in a text or email. Of course, hackers occasionally find ways around app store security. That’s why it’s good to know the signs of a malicious app. If you have an Apple gadget, click here; for Android,click here.

Text acronyms parents need to know

Q. My teenage daughter texts with her friends night and day, but they barely use any words. It’s just a jumble of letters and numbers. How can I figure out what they’re saying?

A. Like the venerable “LOL,” text acronyms have a long history, and there are enough to fill a dictionary. Some to watch for are CD9 (Code 9), KPC (Keep Parents Clueless), MOS (Mom Over Shoulder), P911 (Parent Alert) or PIR (Parent In Room). These are a few ways they let the other person know parents are around. Watch for numbers like 1174 (wild party) and 420 (marijuana). Acronyms like IWSN (I Want Sex Now) and KFY (Kiss For You) are warning signs. There are way too many to list here, but I have plenty more on my site that every parent should know. Click here so you know what your kids are saying.

Old iPods fetch big money on eBay

Q. I have an iPod Classic I don’t use anymore. Do you think if I sold it online I could get a good price?

A. Talk about timing! This is the perfect time to sell an iPod Classic. Apple discontinued that model two months ago. But there are many people who still want a media player that can hold their entire music library. That’s why iPod Classics are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay — even used and broken ones. Click here to find out which model numbers are in highest demand and what price you can expect to get for yours.

Bonus Q&A: Is your car recording your driving?

Q. I got in an accident a few weeks ago and the insurance company asked me if it could pull information about my driving out of a recorder in my car. I didn’t even know it was there! How do I know if my new car has one?

A. So-called “black box” recorders, or Event Data Recorders, have been in some car brands dating back to 1994. They’re in most cars today, and soon they’ll be mandatory in every new vehicle, so it’s a good bet that whatever car you buy will have one, unless you buy pre-94. To be sure, you can ask the dealership — it has to tell you — or look in the car’s manual. Click here for a full list of car brands that have installed them over the years, and what your state laws might say about who can see the data.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at

Welcome , today is Sunday, November 18, 2018