The constant advancement of technology has certainly made our lives easier, but it has also enabled cybercriminals to monitor our online activities in new and advanced ways. Some cyber threats are so sophisticated that they can even bypass state-of-the-art cybersecurity software like Windows Defender, McAffee or Kaspersky. Keyloggers are a perfect example of these “silent” cyber threats. They give hackers easy access to your personal information and are almost undetectable.
From a technological point of view a keylogger is a complex software program made out of thousands of hardcoded written code lines, but the general usage can be described in a few sentences: a keylogger is a tool that third-party people use to monitor and record your keystrokes. Some keyloggers can be very difficult to detect, whether they are installed on your operating system or embedded in the hardware. Read on to learn more about the most common types of keyloggers and ways to remove them from your computer.
In the following a detailed overview about the different aspects of Keylogger is presented to you. The main topics are:
- What is a keylogger?
- What types of keyloggers are there?
- Practical examples of keylogger attacks
- How to remove a keylogger
What is a keylogger?
A keylogger is a tool or technology that monitors and logs successive keystrokes on a keyboard. It usually works covertly so that potential victims do not suspect that their activities are being monitored. A third-party can use this tool to record their target's browsing activity and obtain their personal information. They then use these for their own financial gain by blackmailing the victim, withdrawing money from their bank account, or selling the information to other cybercriminals on the dark web.
While they are mostly used for malicious purposes, keyloggers can also be used for several fairly legitimate reasons. For one, parents can install a keylogger to keep track of what their children are doing online and to receive notifications of unusual activity. Similarly, business owners and managers can use them to ensure that their employees are optimally productive and to verify that employees are not disclosing company secrets.
Keyloggers are often mistakenly labeled malicious software and are not always software-based. They can also be hardware based. In this case they are either integrated into the hardware or available as a separate device. As far as unauthorized software-based keyloggers are concerned, they are usually bundled with malware, spyware or a virus. Hackers typically distribute this malicious keylogging software through phishing emails that contain compromised attachments and / or links to infected websites.
What types of keyloggers are there?
Depending on which part of the computer they are embedded in, all keyloggers can be either software-based or hardware-based. The most common types of keyloggers in these two categories are:
1. API based keylogger
API-based keyloggers are by far the most common. This keylogging software uses the Keyboard API (short for Application Programming Interface) to record your keystrokes. Each time you press the button, a notification is sent to the application you entered so that the character you entered appears on the screen. API-based keyloggers intercept these notifications and record them as separate events. The logs are then saved to a file on the system hard drive so that the hacker can easily retrieve them.
2. Hardware keylogger
Hardware keyloggers are devices that use the circuitry on a keyboard to log keystrokes. They are mostly built into the keyboard, although they are also available as a USB port (for personal computers) or mini-PCI cards (for laptop computers). Instead of relying on software to store the logged keystrokes, all records are stored in the device's internal memory. However, this also means that hackers must have physical access to the keyboard in order to get this information.
Examples of keylogger attacks
Hackers around the world have been using keyloggers to launch cyberattacks on individuals, companies and networks for at least two decades. Some of the most notable examples of keylogger attacks include the following events:
In 2016, a major survey by a US cybersecurity firm found that companies from 18 countries were targeted as part of a coordinated campaign that used Olympic Vision's keylogger to access sensitive business information. This software-based keylogger was distributed via fake e-mails that were supposedly sent by business partners and not only logged keystrokes, but also images and texts in the clipboard, saved logins and chat logs.
In 2007, a group of Romanian hackers launched a global phishing campaign that sent malicious emails to millions of email addresses. When potential victims clicked the link contained in those emails, a software-based keylogger was installed on their computers. The perpetrators of this cyber-attack were finally identified in October 2018 when it was also revealed that they had stolen more than $ 4 million since the attack.
In 2015, a British student was arrested and sentenced to four months in prison after it was revealed that he had used audit logging software to increase his exam grades. He installed the software on his university's computers and used it to steal employee login information. He then used the login details to access his university data on five of his exams and improve his grades.
How to remove a keylogger
Some types of keyloggers can be easily detected and removed by the best antivirus software, but others can prove to be very difficult. This is because many software-based keyloggers are designed as legitimate software and therefore can bypass most antivirus or anti-malware programs.
If you suspect someone has a keylogger installed on your computer, but your anti-malware software is unable to detect it, you may be able to find it in Windows Task Manager. Just launch Task Manager and take a close look at the list of active processes to see if there is anything unusual. If necessary, ask a tech-savvy employee to help you with this step. You can also check your system's firewall for suspicious activity, such as: B. unusual amounts of incoming and / or outgoing data.
As with any other cyber threat, the best way to protect yourself from keylogger attacks is to use the best antivirus software and run regular scans of your computer. To ensure that you are protected from the latest threats, it is recommended that you configure your antivirus to download virus definition updates automatically. Finally, don't open any links or attachments contained in suspicious emails as this could trigger an “invisible” download of a keylogger, spyware, adware, or any other type of malicious software.
We from Wolfeye are technical experts in the software security field. When you have any more questions regarding the software solutions that can protect you and your family don’t hesitate the get in touch with us.