In a world increasingly reliant on the Internet and wireless technology, a keylogger is most often associated with the theft of sensitive information. These devices are used on personal computers to lift usernames, passwords, and financial information like banking and credit card details. One can imagine the serious threat a keylogger might pose to one’s data—especially given the numerous ways in which this asset could be targeted. These include:
- The harvesting of passwords supplied by users on their own devices
- The obtaining of URLs and web addresses visited while surfing the Web
- The screen capturing (screenshots) of Web pages viewed
- The discovery of applications installed on a device
- The retrieval of emails and instant messaging trails
- The periodically snapshot of the device as a whole
A keylogger creates an encrypted log file of all the information it surreptitiously obtains and then sends it along to a specified receiver. When in software form, it is often categorized as privacy-invasive software, as it ignores a user’s right to privacy and presents a clear danger that every responsible user should be wary of.
Protecting Yourself from a Keylogger
Most anti-virus (AV) applications are capable of detecting the presence of a keylogger. But in the event such programs are missed, a manual check can be performed on nearly any computer (i.e., programs like Task Manager on Windows, or Activity Monitor on Mac). A user whose aware is far less likely to fall victim to a keylogger than those who are oblivious to the breaching of their privacy. The most obvious ground rule here is prevention, which can be achieved by downloading software and apps from trusted sources.
An alternative to this is to use web-based (cloud) software to minimize the possibility of downloading and installing a keylogger. If this isn’t possible or readily available, then a virtual operating system can be used prior to installing software to ensure that what you want to install on your computer or device is safe. Other software, like closed virtual office environments, help isolate potentially unwanted programs while keeping the main operating system separate and protected.
While any keylogger could potentially pose a threat to our privacy, users of modern technology (and that includes just about the bulk of society) can counter it with the right actions and security mechanisms in place. The many examples above can go a long way when warding off privacy-invasive software, especially when followed diligently. As the age-old proverb aptly suggests, being forewarned is being forearmed. If the steps above are proactively followed, users can protect themselves and their data from the threat of a keylogger.