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What is a Keylogger?

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | December 1, 2021
Cyber Dictionary|CyberSecurity - Consumer|CyberSecurity - SMB

Keyloggers, which is the abbreviated term representing keystroke loggers, are a particularly nasty piece of malware (malicious software). Their primary objective is to capture or track all of actions executed on your device. Most keyloggers are used for evil intent but there are cases where keyloggers can be used for legitimate purposes.

What is a Keylogger

Keyloggers, sometimes referred to as spyware or monitoring software, are essentially digital surveillance. They can track every click, touch, keystroke, download and conversation carried out on the device they are installed on. The list of specific information keyloggers are known to capture are:

Keylogging Process

For bad actors this information is used to steal your data typically for financial gain, but also for other things like extortion and identity theft.  As mentioned, keyloggers can have legitimate purposes as well.

So how does a keylogger get on my device?

For legitimate uses, it would be installed on each device much like any other application. For bad purposes it spreads in the same way that other malware spreads – emails, SMS, downloads, trojan horses, etc.

Keylogger Example - Operation Liberpy

So how do you detect a keylogger on your device?

Unfortunately, keyloggers can be tricky to detect. Some indicators that a keylogger may be on your device include: slower performance when web browsing, mouse movements or keystrokes pause or don’t show up onscreen as you expected or if you receive error screens when loading graphics or web pages.

You can also proactively check your device to see if a keylogger is running by:

One last point on checking for keyloggers. There are also hardware keyloggers that can be installed between your keyboard and your device. These can be non-obvious attachments or dongles that may appear normal but are in fact a hardware device designed to capture keystrokes. So be diligent and always check for unusual items connected to your computer or other digital device.

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So how do I protect myself from a keylogger?

Like all malware, the best tools to avoid being contaminated with such nasty things is to stay away from untrusted websites, don’t download any software or app that you don’t trust 100% and do not CLICK on any link you are not 100% sure is safe.

But as we all know, sometimes in our busy lives we have “Duh” moments and end up clicking, downloading or surfing the wrong link, file or website. So, you need to protect yourself with tools.

How to protect yourself from keyloggers

Install quality antivirus/antimalware onto your devices. These tools are designed to scan for, locate and remove malware including and especially keyloggers.

Be diligent and be safe. Keyloggers are not your friend.

Installing specialized tools like antivirus, antimalware onto your devices is really the standard answer, there are also things you can do to minimize the likelihood that malware will get onto your devices. This includes:

Be skeptical of everything online!! The biggest threat having malware installed on your device is “social engineering”. The bad actors understand human behavior and use everything imaginable to lure unsuspecting victims through tantalizing offers via email, alerts, sms messages, fake profiles and all kinds of offer mechanisms to get you to click. And once you click the damage is probably done. Do NOT trust any link or file or document unless you are 100% sure it is from a trusted source. Do not Click if you don’t know. 

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