What is a keylogger? More technically known as keystroke loggers, keyloggers are typically programs, though they can also be physical devices, designed to track every keystroke you make on your keyboard and send the information to hackers. These unique programs run in the background of your computer to keep their activities hidden, so you might not know if you have one.
Keylogger software is more common than keylogger hardware, since software is much easier to distribute and conceal. However, physical devices can also be attached to keyboards in order to track and send keystrokes to the person behind a keylogger infection. This is most common in internet cafes, where computer security is often poorly monitored and keylogging hackers have easy access to the device they installed.
Using either method, hackers can access your online user names, passwords, personal e-mails, internet searches, and anything else that you type while a keylogger is running. This compromises victims’ identities through granting access to online financial accounts. More recent keylogger programs can also take screenshots of victims’ online activities, which also subjects victims to the risk of blackmail. LifeLock estimated that 76% of confidential information threats reported in 2008 had keystroke logging involvement.
How to Detect a Keylogger
Keyloggers are difficult to detect because they run as a background process on your computer. If you’re wondering how to detect a keylogger, your best option is to use anti-malware, a specific type of software meant to combat against all computer attacks. Standard anti-virus software might not be enough protection when you’re learning how to check for keyloggers, because keyloggers are not standard viruses.
Keylogger programs may “piggyback” onto your computer with a virus, install themselves after you click on a malicious link, or even gain initial access to your hard drive by embedding themselves in a photo or video that an unknowing friend forwarded to you. Comprehensive protection is in order. Consider using any of the following programs to detect a keylogger:
- SpyCop. A “Total Privacy Protection Suite,” SpyCop not only detects keystroke loggers but masks your keystrokes to begin with. It also can remove viruses, spyware, and botnet attacks from your machine.
- True Sword. By Security Stronghold, True Sword proactively shields your computer from all types of internet based attacks, and can scan and remove previously embedded attacks from your hard drive.
- Norton360. Love it or hate it, Norton360 is still one of the most comprehensive computer protection suites on the market. If you’re serious about protecting your identity online, Norton360 is has all the tools you need in one package.
You can take further steps to protect yourself by making sure that your operating system and programs are regularly updated. Requests to update your software, when proven to be from the software provider (such as Adobe or Microsoft) may sometimes seem like an annoyance, but these updates actually provide needed fixes to the vulnerabilities that allow keystroke loggers and other malicious software access to your computer.
How To Remove a Keylogger
By this point you’re probably wondering: “How do I remove a keylogger from my computer?” Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer. Most keystroke loggers have two components, a .dll file that allows the program to record your keystrokes and an .exe file that allows the program to run. These files could be on different areas of your hard disk, and probably will not have the same file name. When it comes down to how to get rid of a keylogger, using the same program to delete it that you used to locate it is wise.
You should know how to remove a keylogger, since according to Symantec Corp. hackers are frequently exploiting shortfalls in common programs like Microsoft Internet Explorer to gain access to a computer. Once access is gained, they use that computer to infect another target computer, which can eventually allow them to gain access to well protected computers owned by high profile individuals. Everyone in the chain, however, is compromised.
So what is a keylogger? A program you need to consistently check for and remove from your computer using anti-malware to protect yourself from identity theft. These small programs can cause a lot of damage to your identity and credit history, not to mention your personal well being. Use safe internet practices and be sure to regularly scan for and remove any type of dangerous software, including keyloggers, from your computer.