With ever-evolving technologies, the threat of privacy getting compromised is everywhere.
In simple terms, A Keylogger is a software program or a piece of hardware that logs or monitors every key struck on your keyboard, in the background without your knowledge. This is a kind of privacy threat where the intention is to collect your private information such as credit card numbers, login credentials or even your private conversations.
Whether it is your laptop or any smart device, the threat of key struck getting logged is everywhere. The rightful uses of keyloggers can be, parents monitoring their children’s online activities, or an organization monitoring their employee’s actions. Keyloggers can be used by cybercriminal to extort sensitive information and money. In the past, you must have heard of illegal and unethical use of Keyloggers and their consequences. Let us understand this in detail.
Why Keyloggers is a threat?
The nature of keylogger architecture is very different than traditional malicious programs(virus, trojan and many more), it doesn’t have any threat to the system itself but there can be serious threats to users’ privacy. No one on the Internet is immune to these threats but you can definitely follow some privacy and security guidelines to keep yourself safe.
How do you detect a keylogger?
Keyloggers are really difficult to detect. Some of the signs include degradation in performance while browsing, frequent mouse or keyboard pauses or delay in displaying the typed key struck on the screen. We usually rely on Antivirus/ Malware scanners to detect the presence of keyloggers through signature matching algorithms.
Keyloggers can be either a piece of software or it can be a piece of a hardware device.
- A hardware keylogger is usually a small device that can be directly attached to the keyboard, or placed within a cable or inside a computer itself. Hardware keyloggers are really difficult to detect. So most of the big companies don’t allow access to the server rooms and conduct periodic security checks for all of the hardware devices.
- A software keylogger is a dedicated program used to track and log keystrokes in a file. And it is programmed to send the log files to a remote server or even to the mail address periodically. Software keyloggers are easy to construct and can spread easily and hence we are going to focus on this type of keylogger.
How Keylogger spreads?
- A keylogger can be installed when a user opens a malicious file attached to the email from an untrusted source.
- A keylogger can be installed remotely by the attackers if the system is not regularly updated with security patches.
- A keylogger can be installed intentionally by near ones if they have access to the user’s system.
- A keylogger can be installed via a malicious web script which typically exploits browser vulnerabilities. Usually happens when the user uses the older version browser or a browser having any potential vulnerabilities.
- A keylogger can be installed when a file is opened on a Peer-to-Peer network or an open-access directory.
How to protect yourself from keyloggers?
- Antivirus companies keep on updating their database with keylogger patterns and signatures. Protection against keylogger is no different than protection against any other malicious programs, hence installation of antivirus and keeping its database up to date, is the first step against keyloggers.
- Never install software/applications from untrusted sources. Usually, attackers utilize different techniques to embed keyloggers with known software. Downloading and installing software from unverified sources would lead to the installation of malicious keyloggers along with the intended software.
- Always keep your system up to date with the latest security patch releases. Systems not having the latest security patches are more likely to open vulnerable doors and attackers can easily get in and install malicious programs like a keylogger.
- Always keep your browser up to date with the latest releases. Malicious web scripts should be blocked by browsers, in order to protect the users from exploitation.
- Never open programs attached to the email coming from untrusted senders. Here end user can be tricked by attackers to open the malicious program attached in the email. A good antivirus with real-time web activity scanner can fight against such vulnerabilities.
- Extra security measures to be taken from user ends such as,
- Enable one-time password or two-step authentication
- Making use of a virtual keyboard while typing passwords
Even though keyloggers can be used for legitimate uses, it is often used by cyber attackers to steal personal and industrial data. These days, keyloggers can spread easily via phishing or via social engineering techniques. An antivirus or a dedicated protection program along with the healthy practices can be used to protect against keyloggers.