A keylogger can be a device or piece of software. Either way, it is a very serious security concern. Keyloggers, as the name suggests, are capable of monitoring your activities on your computer by logging every keystroke you enter and saving it into its memory for later retrieval and review. Learn more about types of computer security online.
Types of Keyloggers
There are two basic types of keyloggers – the hardware keylogger and the software keylogger. A hardware keylogger is a device that is attached, usually to a keyboard, at the end of the PS2 or USB port and at the port and is attached to the computer port.
The other type is the software keylogger. In other words, it is a type of computer program installed into a computer. Software keyloggers can not only monitor save the keystrokes that you type, it can also take screenshots of your computer, and copy the data you put in your clipboard.
Hardware vs. Software Keyloggers
In terms of installation, hardware keyloggers are easier to use and install, compared to software keyloggers. All one has to do is have physical access to the computer and it can already be installed. Hardware keyloggers can easily bypass security software too. However, it is also very easy to detect it once the compromised computer is inspected.
Software keyloggers are quite complicated to use and install, in comparison to the hardware version. However, there is no need have physical access to the computer because this type of keylogger can be installed remotely, through a computer network or the Internet, making it more of a security concern. However, software keyloggers must find a way to overcome security software like antivirus software and firewalls to avoid detection. (Learn how to get rid of computer viruses)
How Keyloggers Work
No matter what type of keylogger is used, their main objective is to monitor the activities done on the computer. It basically intercepts such activities it is programmed to monitor and saves it into a file for software keyloggers and into a dedicated memory device for hardware types.
Such data is later retrieved by the person who installed the device. For hardware versions, the physical removal of the device from the computer where its contents is downloaded into a computer for evaluation. For software loggers, the log file is either sent remotely to the person through email, FTP upload, through an IM messages, or by physical access by in that same computer.
The Risks of Keyloggers
Keyloggers actually have legal uses. These are commonly used in government computers, offices, and in homes as a means of parents monitoring the activities of their children on the computer. However, these keyloggers are also abused by cyber-criminals in order to obtain sensitive information from their victims. It is used to steal user names and passwords, banking details, and credit card numbers, among others.
Keyloggers can be used as payloads from various types of malware. It can come with spyware, trojans, backdoors, and adware and automatically install themselves into a computer without the user’s knowledge.
Once your computer is infected with a keylogger, you are opened to a serious security problem. Not only is your personal data is at risk, even your your company’s secrets and other sensitive information is exposed.
How to Determine if you have a Keylogger in your Computer?
Keyloggers are basically spying devices, no matter regardless of its purpose, making it harder to detect. However, there are some clues you can look for to determine if there is indeed a keylogger.
Hardware keyloggers are quite easy to spot. Since they are devices, you can easily inspect the computer and look for something unusual attached to it. Here’s what you should do:
- Look at the keyboard itself and see if there is something unusual. Some keyloggers of this type can be made to look identical to ordinary keyboards.
- Inspect the keyboard’s cable too. Follow it to the port where it connects to the CPU.
If you notice anything unusual attached to it, immediately report it to your IT department. If that is a public computer, avoid using it and move to another computer.
For software keyloggers, the first place you should look at is the system tray. Many legitimate and commercial keyloggers have system tray icons that tell that the computer is being monitored. Here are other signs that your computer has a keylogger:
- Network activity even if you are not accessing the network. This happens when the keylogger attempts to send the captured data through the Internet.
- Sluggish computer. On slower computers, even simple activities like moving the mouse or typing text through your keyboard seems slower. If you are not running any resource-intesive software on your computer, that might be the keylogger taking up those resources to record your activities.
- Unknown or mysterious running processes. Some keyloggers do not leave icons in your system tray but are sometimes careless in hiding the keylogger’s process from the task manager or similar applications. If you notice an unknown process in your task manager, that can be a keylogger too.
- Online accounts changes. If you know that you are the only one who knows your log-in details on various online accounts and services and you notice some changes, like a change of settings, password, or even transactions (banks, credit cards), then that is another clue that someone else managed to steal your log-in details.
These are just some basic clues in finding keyloggers. However, there are also keyloggers that use rootkits to effectively hide themselves, avoiding detection. You will only know that you have been victimized when your identity is used fraudulently or your bank account is emptied.
How to Get Rid of Keyloggers
Keyloggers, when used illegally, is considered as a form of malware that should be immediately. The best way to get rid of keyloggers is to use both updated antivirus and anti-spyware software (For spyware removal, read how to get rid of spyware).
Commercial security software like Norton Internet Security, Mcaffee Internet Security Suite, and Eset Internet Security are some good security suite software that are capable of removing keylogger software in your computer.
If you suspect you have one in your computer and you need to get rid of it right away, you can simply avail of free online scans through those antivirus companies’ websites. All you need is an Internet connection and a supported Internet browser.
Free antivirus and anti-spyware software like AVG, Avira, Avast, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Ad-Aware are some software you can use if you prefer not to spend money on software.
If you are still paranoid that you have a keylogger still installed in your computer, then your last resort will be to reformat your computer. This may take several hours to do, especially when you have a lot of data to backup, but it is the best way to make sure that you don’t have any keylogger in your computer. Formatting your hard drive will erase everything on stored so make sure you have working backups of your files.
It is quite easy to avoid getting victimized by keyloggers. First step is to have your computer running updated versions of security software. Never download software from unsafe websites too. If you have to download software, go directly to the website and click the download button.
Avoid using public computers when logging into your email, online banking, or other secure online services. If you really have to, make sure you immediately change your password at home or at a secured computer.
If you suspect that the public computer you are using has a keylogger, try to “trick” it by typing all the consonants or certain characters of your password first then using the mouse to insert the vowels or other remaining characters of your password.
Click here to for more information about how to get rid of keyloggers