I have some serious suspition that my boss installed some kind of spy software. Maybe a keylogger, screen capture or something to know what I do when he's not at the office.

I have nothing to hide so I don't know if he doesn't tell me anything because he didn't find anything out of place or because I'm being paranoid and he's not spying me.

Either way I want to be sure if I'm being spied because:

  1. I don't want to work for someone he doesn't trust me me
  2. It's illegal and I won't allow anyone to store my passwords (I do access my personal email, homebanking and Facebook account during lunch breaks) and personal information.

So... how can I detect spy software in a iMac running OS X 10.6.8? I have full admin permissions know it.

I tried scanning all folders in my user's and system Library but nothing rang any bell but since I think any of this software would hide the folder (either by location or name) I don't think I'll find a folder named Employeee Spy Data

I also looked all the processes running at different moments with Activity Monitor but again... it's not like the process would be called SpyAgent Helper

Is there a list of known possible folders / processes to look for?

Any other way to detect?

  • 5
    This is your boss. Come see me tomorrow. Nah, just kidding. Depending on how skilled he is, you could start by checking the available software of that type for Mac OS X and trying e.g. keystrokes that activate it. Also, I have not found a commercial solution offering password capturing. Jul 31 '12 at 17:55
  • 1
    It is not necessarily illegal but depends on what your employment contract says and I suspect could be legal just becuse you are using equipment owned by the company
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 31 '12 at 21:04
  • 1
    A similar question at Super User. You could also try monitoring network traffic with an application like Little Snitch.
    – Lri
    Aug 1 '12 at 11:31

Any kind of rootkit worth its salt is going to be nearly undetectable on a running system because they hook into the kernel and/or replace system binaries to hide itself. Basically what you're seeing cannot be trusted because the system cannot be trusted. What you need to do is turn off the system, connect an external boot drive (don't connect it to the running system) and then boot the system from an external disk and look for suspicious programs.


I'll make the hypothesis you have already thoroughly checked all the most common RAT are off or dead (all sharings, ARD, Skype, VNC…).

  1. On an external and fully trustable Mac running also 10.6.8, install one (or both) of these 2 rootkits detectors:

    1. rkhunter this is a traditionnal tgz to build & install
    2. chkrootkit which you may install through brew or macports, for example:

      port install chkrootkit

  2. Test them on this trustable Mac.

  3. Save them on an USB key.

  4. Plug your key on your suspected system running in normal mode with everything as usual and run them.

  • 1
    If the rootkit can detect the operation of an executable on a flash, it may be able to hide it's actions. Better, to boot the suspect mac in target mode, then scan from the trusted mac. Jan 25 '16 at 3:02
  • Who has reviewed the source code for all of the chkrootkit C programs, especially the script “chkrootkit”, to ensure that they aren’t infecting our computers with rootkits or key loggers?
    – Curt
    May 28 '17 at 13:37

One definite way to see if anything suspicious is running is to open the Activity Monitor app, which you can open with Spotlight or go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. An app can hide from plain sight, but if it's running on the machine, it will definitely show up in Activity Monitor. Some things on there will have funny names, but they are supposed to be running; so if you aren't sure what it is, maybe Google it before you click Quit Process, or you could turn off something important.

  • 2
    Some software can patch the process table routines and hide themselves. Simple programs and ones intended to be more reliable (since a modification of that low level of the system can cause issues) won't hide the processes or files that it leaves behind. However to categorically say all apps definitely show up isn't a good statement since it's trivial to patch Activity Monitor or the process table itself with some light engineering work.
    – bmike
    Nov 26 '13 at 21:56
  • This is a risky trust on a known application (Activity Monitor) not too hard to make lie.
    – dan
    Dec 7 '13 at 15:08

If you've been hacked, the keylogger has to report. It can do this either immediately, or store locally and periodically spew it to some network destination.

Your best bet is to scrounge an old laptop, ideally with 2 ethernet ports, or, failing that with a PCMCIA network card. Install a BSD or Linux system on it. (I would recommend OpenBSD, then FreeBSD just because of easier management)

Set up the laptop to act as a bridge -- all packets are passed through. Run tcpdump on the traffic back and forth. Write everything to a flash drive. Periodically change the drive, take the filled drive home and use ethereal or snort or similar to go through the dump file and see if you find anything odd.

You are looking for traffic to an unusual ip/port combination. This is tough. Don't know of any good tools to help winnow out the chaff.

There is a possibility that the spyware writes to the local disk covering its tracks. You can check for this by booting from another machine, boot your mac in target mode (it acts like a firewire device) Scan the volume, grabbing all the detail you can.

Compare two runs of this on separate days using diff. This eliminates the file that are the same on both runs. This won't find everything. E.g. A Blackhat app can create a disk volume as a file. This won't change much if the Black app can arrange for the dates to not change.

Software can help: http://aide.sourceforge.net/ AIDE Advanced Intrusion Detection Environment. Useful for watching for changed files/permissions. Aimed at *ix, not sure how it handles extended attributes.

Hope this helps.


To detect and delete apps you can use any uninstall software for Macintosh (like CleanMyMac or MacKeeper).

  • How would this person find the spyware in the first place (before using the uninstallation app)?
    – M K
    Nov 27 '13 at 14:05
  • mackeeper is the worst software ever
    – Juan
    Jan 25 '16 at 4:56

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