How to tell if someone is remotely viewing (not accessing) my computer and how to prevent it?
March 27, 2010 9:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I tell if someone is remotely viewing (not accessing) my computer and how can I prevent it?

Recently my fiance has been concerned that our roommate is remotely viewing our computer and watching movies at the same time that he is. There have been uncanny situations where a funny part on our computer comes on and our roommate in another room laughs at exactly that time. Its happened enough times that it just seems too weird.

I don't think he is able to access and control our computer since I have remote desktop and network access off from the administrator controls, but there might be something I am missing. I also would like to change our router's password since that might stop him if he has figured out our password, but I forgot how to access the settings from a browser.

Here are the stats for our computer and router. Please ask if I might have missed something:

Windows XP
Linksys Router
Recently installed ZoneAlarm
AVG antivirus

I have also done the Start-Run- cmd, netstat check for any foreign pcs, but I got mostly 127, 198, or's. Keep in mind, I am still fairly new to in depth computer managing, so keep it as English as possible ^_^
posted by LittleNami to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't help you with changing your password and such (but go ahead and do it if it will make you feel better), but I came in to suggest that the most likely situation is that your roommate can hear the movie. I can frequently hear conversations in the next room that aren't particularly loud.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:10 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can access your router to change the password and settings by going to
posted by scarykarrey at 10:23 PM on March 27, 2010

try it yourself, setup windows remote desktop or vnc and try and watch a video that way.

Even when the computers are on the same network in the same room the remote connection is usually too crappy to watch a movie without the video skipping tons of frames and the sound being out of sync.

If you can hear him laugh he can probably hear your movie.
posted by Iax at 10:53 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is theoretically possible --- everyone computer on the same LAN can listen in to traffic if they care to, wifi encryption can be broken, or he might have managed to slip in some monitoring malware --- but sounds unlikely: it would take a moderate amount of skill to implement, doing it and then giving yourself away by laughing loudly sounds pretty dumb.
Other than that, I think penguin may be on the right track here, try disabling the network while watching movies and see if you can still hear laughter.

The exact address to configure your router depends on the model and configuration, but it is almost certainly the address listed as Gateway in the network connection properties.

Keep in mind that this is a situation screaming out Confirmation Bias: maybe your neighbor is a happy guy overall, and you just notice when he laughs at the same time as you do. You are probably sitting still and keeping quiet while watching a movie, it's much easier to notice extraneous noises this way than, say, when having a conversation.

Also, I'm not being at all serious but your roommate might secretly be a black belt hacking master and monitor your PC via Van Eck phreaking, in which case what you need is a good supply of tinfoil.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:55 PM on March 27, 2010

Most anti-spyware programs alert a user to anything that allows remote access, since they don't know if it was installed intentionally or not. The one exception being the built-in remote access software. But you've disabled that.

One thing you might do is to check the trusted or ignored programs list in each anti-spyware or firewall program installed on your machine for something you don't recognize, and google it.

If it finds something you can't even google, post again in this thread or mefimail me.

Another thing to do is to boot into safe mode and run msconfig from start-> run. From there you can check all the programs that run at startup time. Be careful though, google before disabling anything or removing it might break something else.

One thing to keep an eye out for with both of these, and it kind of sucks to look for, is items that are close but not exactly the right name for what should be there, extra spaces or 1's and lower-case L's interchanged, etc.

Anything more complicated that could hide from the detection methods I and others have outlined would probably be more effort and take more talent than your roommate has.

The final thing I might resort to if I'm still not sure is booting from a linux livecd/usb thumbstick and doing my entertainment/work via that. No way in heck is the average roommate going to figure out how to deal with it.

I hope you find nothing wrong and can put your fears to rest, it really sucks not being able to trust your roomies but I've been in similar situations before.
posted by TimeDoctor at 1:33 AM on March 28, 2010

Unplug/disable your network connection next time it happens. Your movie should continue, if it's from a locally stored file or DVD, and so should the laughter in the next room.
posted by about_time at 4:53 AM on March 28, 2010

Are you watching streaming movies on youtube or some other streaming site? If so, then in theory it might be possible to tap into the stream and watch along with your roommate , without doing anything to your connection.

But I have to ask, are you guys laughing out loud yourself? If so, your roommate might just start laughing involuntarily because he hears you. It isn't like it would be impossible for a roommate to install spyware, but it just seems so unlikely that they would sit around watching a movie at the same time you are and they would blow their cover by laughing at the funny parts. It would just be a really weird thing to do, even among people who would hack their roommate's machine.
posted by delmoi at 7:23 AM on March 28, 2010

Yeah, this falls into the category of "technically possible, but why bother?" If someone with malicious intent were to go to the trouble of sniffing your traffic and/or compromising your machine I can't imagine that they'd (1) do something so mundane as watching what you're watching on streaming video, or (2) give away their capabilities by laughing like that. By all means take this opportunity to educate yourselves about network security, but I'd relax otherwise. :)
posted by Alterscape at 8:01 AM on March 28, 2010

Hello, what?

If you can hear him laughing, he can almost certainly hear the movies playing.

There is basically 0 chance, that even if he knew how to hack your computer, he would just sit around waiting for you to watch movies.
posted by shownomercy at 9:37 AM on March 29, 2010

« Older Why does my guitar amp blow every speaker it comes...   |   Do dictionary writers start with the letter M?... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.