Spyware is sold legally in the United States. This software records chats, emails, websites visited, usernames and passwords, and basically everything a person does on that PC. Some spyware programs can record everything in a video file that can then be accessed remotely.

This is all perfectly legal as long as the PC’s owner is the one to install the software. Installing spyware on a computer that is not your own is illegal. Spyware can be great if, for example, you have a twelve-year-old daughter who obsessively chats online, and you want to know with whom she’s chatting or if you have employees whose productivity is less than satisfactory, you may want to check if they’re watching YouTube all day.

Spyware also comes in the form of a virus, which essentially does the same thing. When you click a malicious link or install a program that is infected with malicious software, numerous types of spyware can be installed as well.

Mobile phone spyware is relatively new and is quickly grabbing headlines. As PCs shrink to the size of a smartphone, spyware continues to evolve with this trend.

Apparently, cell phone spyware is illegal in Romania, since the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism recently arrested fifty individuals, including “businessmen, doctors, and engineers, in addition to a judge, government official, police officer, and former member of Parliament,” who have been accused of monitoring cell phone communications of their spouses and competitors, among others, using off-the-shelf software.

Spyware can be installed on your cell phone remotely or directly. To protect your phone, never click on links in texts or emails that could actually point toward malicious downloads. Always have your phone with you and never let it out of your sight or let anyone else use it. Make sure your phone requires a password to have access. If your phone is password-protected, it will be difficult to install spyware.

If your phone is behaving oddly or you have some other reason to suspect that it contains spyware, reinstall the phone’s operating system. Consult your user manual or call your carrier’s customer service for step-by-step help with this process.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses mobile phone spyware on Good Morning America. Disclosures

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