What is a keylogger?
Keystroke logger – also known as a “keylogger” – is when every keystroke you make on your computer is tracked and recorded, usually without your authorization or knowledge that it’s happening.
The dangers of keyloggers
Criminals bent on stealing your identity can do so easily when they know everything you’ve ever typed on your computer.
According to Kaspersky Lab, when a user doesn’t know his or her computer keyboard activity is being recorded by criminals, sensitive information can be exposed.
Without even knowing it, you become vulnerable by typing in a password, a credit card number, a Social Security Number, or other personal information.
And with that information in the hands of someone else, you’re susceptible to identity theft.
When an analyst for the SANS Institute conducted a recent study, he concluded some 10 million computers in the United States are infected with a keylogger.
He found the potential for loss based on those 10 million computers is more than $24 million.
How does it work?
Keyloggers can be installed on your computer when you click on an attachment that a hacker might have sent in an email, text message, a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, or through a social network.
They can also automatically install on your system when you unknowingly visit a website infected with a keylogger program.
It’s important to know that not all keyloggers are sent by anonymous sources.
Keyloggers can actually be purchased for “legitimate purposes,” but in the hands of an ex-spouse or an untrusted co-worker, can be used to keep track of your actions.
Some companies also track their employees’ use of computers with keylogger software.
How to protect against malicious keyloggers
A majority of anti-virus software is able to detect keyloggers just as they would other malicious programs on your computer.
But it’s important to ensure your anti-virus program will automatically look for a keylogger.
If it’s not a default setting, the program may have to be configured to do so.
Aside from using an anti-virus, always keep in mind the basic principles of computer security, like using a firewall, keeping your software updated, avoiding pirated software, and using password managers.
Use secure passwords that are long and contain numbers, letters and symbols if possible.
Security experts recommend using a one-time password, available with products such as a USB key or a “calculator,” which are both available for purchase through various companies.
When this process is used, even if a cybercriminal is able to determine what password or PIN you type in, it will automatically change during future visits.
Theoretically, this prevents the hacker from gaining access. Banking systems in the U.S. often use this form of security.
You can also use a virtual keyboard to avoid some keylogging issues, although even these programs can’t protect you all the time.
Virtual keyboards display the keyboard on your computer monitor, and the keys can be pressed by using a mouse.
If you use Windows, an on-screen keyboard is already built in to your system.
Just go to the start menu, click on “Programs,” then “Accessories,” then “Accessibility.” From there, you’ll want to select the “On-Screen Keyboard.”