Perpetrators of domestic abuse are increasingly using spyware on home computers to track and intimidate their victims. Women with computers in their home need to be aware of the possibility that spyware may be downloaded on their PC, laptop or on their childrens' computers.

What is spyware?

Spyware is computer software that can be installed surreptitiously on a person's computer without their consent. The person who has installed the spyware can then access the computer remotely from another computer, and can monitor information input into that computer e.g. the user's visited webpages, emails, keystrokes etc.

Is it possible to tell if the computer has spyware on it?

It is often not possible to tell if the computer has spyware on it. A person being abused may realise that their abuser is using spyware because the abuser knows information that would be difficult to find out by any other means.

What should a person do if they suspect that their computer has spyware on it?

  • Use a computer at a public library or an internet cafe if you suspect there is any possibility of your abuser monitoring a home computer
  • Do not use home computers to raise any suspicion or give information to the abuser e.g. researching websites about domestic abuse, sending revealing emails to friends and family
  • Do not look up websites about removing spyware as this will raise suspicion
  • Do not attempt to remove the spyware as this will raise suspicion (also, the spyware could be used in evidence against the abuser in a court case)
  • If you have children who witness abuse or are also being abused, warn them not to use the home computer in relation to what is happening at home, but to use a friend's computer, the library or an internet cafe.

Read more about Spyware in Digital Stalking: A Guide to Technology Risks for Victims.