Amnesty International has released a program that can spot spying software used by governments to monitor activists and political opponents.
The software known as Detekt was found to be necessary, as standard anti-virus programs often missed spying software.
Amnesty said many governments used sophisticated spying tools that could grab images from webcams or listen via microphones to monitor people.
Tanya O'Carroll, an advisor on technology and human rights at Amnesty International said: "These spying tools are marketed on their ability to get round your bog-standard anti-virus.
"The makers of the spying software went through extensive training to ensure that the way they infected and lurked on a computer did not trigger security alerts."
Over the past two years, Detekt has been developed to spot the few tell-tale signs spying programs tend to leave. The intense scan it carries out on a hard drive means a computer cannot be used while Detekt is running.
Four separate rights groups have worked together to create the spyware spotter, including Amnesty International, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy International and Digitale Gesellschaft.
The group is now on the lookout for help to keep Detekt up to date, and expand the range of spying programs it can catch.
Ms Carroll said many governments have been using spying software for some time and the programs were becoming increasingly popular with democratically elected governments. Spying software has been found on the computers of activists in Bahrain, Syria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Germany, Tibet, North Korea and many other nations.
Ms Carroll added: "It's easier to name the countries that are not using these spying tools than those that are".
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