A keylogger, or keystroke recorder, is a hidden program used by cybercriminals to secretly record every keystroke on your computer. The main goal is to collect your confidential information such as passwords or logins and send it to a hacker.
Keyloggers were originally used to track employee activity on computers, but quickly became useful not only for hackers, but also for internet marketers who use keyloggers to track their visitors’ actions.
Like other hacking programs, keyloggers can be installed on your computer over the Internet, after which the hacker can determine your logins for different sites without seeing them on the screen.
They can do this by analyzing whatever you enter to select sensitive data, such as passwords, that you usually remember on your computer so you can log in faster. Such data is stored on your computer in the form of cookies, making it easier for a hacker to obtain it.
How does Keylogger work
There are several types of keyloggers depending on how they connect to your computer or browser, such as rootkit viruses that infiltrate your computer’s operating system or hypervisor malware that runs at much lower levels. These two, in particular, are usually difficult to get rid of, so they continue to act nonstop.
Keyloggers are also known for the way they work. For example, there are those that infect web pages and steal your data if you visit such pages, while others attach to your browser as hidden extensions, often avoiding detection by malware, and report every keystroke made through the application.
The aforementioned software keyloggers, but there are hardware keyloggers as well, such as an extra connector on your computer, an overlay keyboard, or other hardware that you are unlikely to come across at home.
The chances of getting hit by one of them are very small compared to the type of virus that hackers are using to patch up Internet platforms that we should be more worried about.
How to install Keylogger on PC
Keyloggers are often installed on your computer as part of a Trojan disguised as a useful utility. After downloading and installing, the application either works, but malware is downloaded to your computer, or stops working as promised.
Once installed, the keylogger will run every time you start your computer and record keystrokes in specific fields of websites or every keystroke on your computer.
This is because Trojans usually work as a bundle with various elements that perform specialized tasks. The first Trojan can be in the form of a downloader that allows a hacker to download malware onto your computer, while a keylogger records your keystrokes and another program sends your information over the Internet.
If you want to prevent keyloggers from installing or working on your computer, the best chance is to block them before installing with reliable antivirus software.
However, keylogging is a common thing for some businesses or parents who use it to track their children’s activities, which is why security programs often overlook it. To make matters worse, there are keyloggers included in the update that usually manage to avoid detection by anti-malware software.
All of this makes it difficult to prevent keyloggers from entering your computer, so you should be more vigilant and skeptical about any free apps or programs that you download to your computer over the Internet.
How to discover and remove Keylogger
Unlike spyware and other types of malware, which usually slow down your computer, a keylogger does not. In fact, you won’t even know it works, so it’s not easy to spot it.
Your computer’s task manager can show you any unwanted software that might be running on your computer, but in order to detect the keylogger, you will need a stronger program suitable for the task.
The best method for detecting and removing a keylogger is by using a combination of powerful anti-keylogger and anti-rootkit software, which can find and eliminate keyloggers than your anti-virus or anti-malware utility.
Anti-keyloggers usually check all processes running on your computer, including background applications and services, operating system, and all other settings.
However, one dedicated anti-keylogger program is not enough to erase a keylogger, so you need an anti-rootkit program and possibly a fresh installation of the operating system.
Some of the best anti-keyloggers you can use include SpyShelter and Zemana SpyShelter is only available on Windows computers and works best when it runs continuously to detect and block the installation of keyloggers on your computer.
Apart from prevention, it offers several protection mechanisms against keyloggers, such as scanning your computer’s operations for suspicious activity and attempting to delete them, or scrambling and encrypting your keystrokes so that they are useless to keyloggers.
Zemana is another anti-logger software system that provides an anti-malware suite that includes a malware scanner, ad blocker, encryption, and ransomware protection.
It’s not as powerful as SpyShelter, but it’s also Windows-only and runs in the background, monitoring any suspicious activity, performing periodic system scans, and scanning downloads and installation files for malware.
Anti-rootkit programs are your second line of defense against which specialized anti-keylogger systems do not work.
Malwarebytes is a free Windows-only rootkit protection program that runs through your computer’s operating system, scanning for a variety of rootkit viruses and keyloggers. It also performs on-demand system scans, or if you prefer, you can do a full scan and restart your computer to apply the changes.
You can also try the free McAfee Rootkit Remover, a Windows-only program that provides on-demand scanning and removes any rootkits it detects, including keyloggers.
If you suspect that a keylogger may be installed on your computer, you can first check the Task Manager for suspicious processes or use antikeylogger and anti-rootkit software to help you find and get rid of it.
As always, prevention is better than cure, so be extra careful with the applications or programs you download, the web pages you visit, and importantly, update your operating system and browsers, among other software, to block any exploits.