“Every word you type, every site in your sight,
Every click you make, someone might be retrieving it.”

While searching for the answer for my previous question, I also found some information about other programs that could possibly be “listening” to what’s happening on your computer, or to put it precisely, secretly logging all your activities for others to track without your knowledge. Keyloggers.

keyloggerA keylogger comes by many names, also called a keystroke logger, key logger, or system monitor; it is a hardware device (like a small battery-sized plug connecting the keyboard and computer), or small program widely available on the Internet that can be downloaded on purpose, physically, or can be downloaded unwittingly as spyware and executed as component part of a rootkit or remote administration (RAT) Trojan horse or a virus program, thus it makes it not necessary to have physical access to the subject computer not like the hardware device. What triggers it to work is the executable file (.EXE) that installs the dynamic link library DLL file (which does all the recording) installed in the same directory. This runs invisibly or secretly in the background, capturing and recording all the activities on the subject computer such as:

  • keystrokes that may contain private and/or confidential information, concerning your business, about your private life,
  • or different keywords that a user types on a specific computer’s keyboard
  • emails sent and all communication
  • web sites visited, including screenshots and even timestamps
  • all the programs or applications run and closed
  • all print activities and clipboard contents
  • as a hardware device, it collects each keystroke and saves it as text in its own miniature hard drive,

basically everything from startup to shut down of the computer where it is installed without the user’s knowledge. Keylogger then usually

  • saves the results to a log file, either aggregating the information locally for later retrieval or
  • upload the information periodically to a spyware server on the Internet, or
  • send the “report” in an email to whoever unwittingly installed the program.

Some keyloggers are secretly installed on the home computer for the purpose of allowing parents to monitor their children’s whereabouts on the Internet, as some minors tend to be “lost” out there. And of course, it is used to catch cheating spouses of suspicious partners by monitoring all their communication; all of these to understand their computer use, from emails to websites they visit.

There has been much criticism for this spyware on privacy grounds and the great tendency for abuse, that some stipulate that there should be a law to be enacted to clearly make the boundaries or to make unauthorized use of keyloggers a criminal offense, because it can be used maliciously to gain unauthorized access to users’ computer systems and steal your sensitive informations.

Why keyloggers are dangerous is because of this program’s ability to bypass encryption controls so any sensitive information and confidential data you have can be intercepted, and from that point forward the hacker that watches your encryption key can use it to decrypt all of your “protected” communications.

On the other hand,

“Keylogging can be used to determine sources of errors in computer systems, for administrators to study how users interact with systems, and is sometimes used to measure employee productivity on certain clerical tasks. Such systems are also highly useful for law enforcement and espionage—for instance, providing a means to obtain passwords or encryption keys and thus bypassing other security measures. “

If you have nothing to hide then to the heck with keyloggers, except the fact and the shuddering feeling that someone is looking over your shoulders, give someone the moment’s anticipation to guilt and shame that he is wrong about his suspicions, but, if it can be used to decrypt sensitive information, financial and any confidential info, we sure will be more disturbed.

So how do we find out if there are key loggers installed in our computers? Ironically, most of these keyloggers can be detected by installing another keylogger or anti-keylogger yourself, as I have said they are widely available on the Internet. But luckily, they can be detected by other good anti spyware programs. And when you start your task manager (Ctrl + Alt + Del), you might find any processes that are different from that of the programs’ you installed on your pc. As there always are people who feel the necessity to know about you and your business more than they are supposed, who need to get some peculiar information about you or your passwords and other computer activity to for whatever purposes.