One method to monitor your activities online as well as your computer is backdoors on your computer.

Software backdoors typically run hidden in the background. They are capable of carrying out the following activities:

It is clear from the list that once your computer is compromised with a backdoor, your activity is not secret anymore. It does not matter if you are encrypting your emails with PGP, if your adversary can simply take screenshots of your emails while they are open on the screen.

It depends on the adversary, but they can utilise one of the following methods:

In addition, law enforcement agencies have additional capabilities to compromise your computer, such as:

The bad news is that state sponsored attacks will probably succeed. Well-funded organisations have the budget as well as the talent to develop exploits that will compromise your computer even with all precautions. One type of precaution is to compartmentalize your work in order to limit the damage.

However, you should still install anti-malware and anti-exploit software on your PC. Both of them have certain capabilities to block unknown and advanced malicious software your adversary may utilise to compromise your PC.

Keep in mind that these products can only protect you before any malicious software is installed. If you suspect your computer is compromised, wipe it clean and reinstall everything from a clean media.

Modern anti-malware (or anti-virus) software sport many advanced features to protect your PC from malicious software to be installed. These capabilities include:

Based on the reports (1, 2) of two indendent anti-malware testing companies, we endorse Kaspersky Internet Security.

The product is not free, however we are not affiliated with the company in any way

Once Kaspersky is installed, the main window should pop up. All is good, but we need to fine tune the application.

Application whitelisting is an effective technique that blocks malicious software from running if it has not been seen before. Backdoors tailored against you typically fall into this category. This technique is recommended by many organisations including the Australian Signals Directorate)

Your PC is reasonably protected now from both known and unknown malicious software. Keep Kaspersky running in the background all time, and buy the licence before the trial expires.

Kaspersky may flag Ricochet as malicious. This is a known problem and you may ignore the warning as it is a false positive. Locate the 'K' icon next to the clock in the bottom-right corner and select 'Pause protection...' while installing Ricochet.

The other major threat to your computer is browser exploits. If your browser or one of its plugins (such as Adobe Flash) is outdated or vulnerable, the adversary can exploit that to deploy their backdoor software.

Anti-exploit kits are special tools that protects your PC from these types of attacks. It is a great companion to your anti-malware product providing an additional layer of defense.

Based on an independent test, we recommend the product named HitmanPro.Alert.

The product is not free, however we are not affiliated with the company in any way

Now your browser is reasonably protected from browser exploits. The software should be running at all time in the background.

Remember, these software are not bulletproof and will not provide protection from a determined, well-funded adversary. Check out our guides for other safe practices such as compartmentalization.

Photo courtesy of Karol Franks