What is a keylogger?
Did you know that your keyboard could let cybercriminals eavesdrop on you? Or that they could watch you on your system camera? Or listen over your smartphone’s microphone? Welcome to the world of keyloggers, a particularly insidious type of spyware that can record and steal consecutive keystrokes (and much more) that the user enters on a device.
Although for our purposes, keyloggers operate in the context of malware, they are not always illegal to install and use. Keyloggers are a common tool for corporations, which information technology departments use to troubleshoot technical problems on their systems and networks—or to keep an eye on employees surreptitiously. The same goes for, say, parents, who want to monitor their children’s activities. Suspicious spouses are another market for keyloggers.
How can I detect and remove keyloggers?
Are there telltale signs that your device is hosting a keylogger? The answer is, it depends.
The well-designed commercial grade of keylogger usually works flawlessly, so it does not affect system performance at all. If the keylogger is sending reports to a remote operator, it disguises itself as normal files or traffic. Some of the programs will even display a notice on the screen that the system is being monitored—such as in a corporate computing environment. Others can reinstall themselves if users somehow succeed in finding them and attempt to remove them.
Keyloggers of poorer quality (such as the malware variety) might reveal themselves in a number of ways. The software might subtly degrade smartphone screenshots to a noticeable degree. On all devices, there could be a slowdown in web browsing performance. Or there’s a distinct lag in your mouse movement or keystrokes, or what you are actually typing doesn’t show up onscreen. You might even get an error message when loading graphics or web pages. All in all, something just seems “off.”
Of course, the best way to protect yourself and your equipment from falling victim to keyloggers is to scan your system regularly with a quality cybersecurity program. For instance, Malwarebytes is fully equipped to sniff out keyloggers. It uses heuristics, signature recognition, and identification of typical keylogger behavior associated with keystroke and screenshot capturing to first find the malware, and then remove it. You can try Malwarebytes free if you’re concerned you may have a malware infection, keylogger or otherwise.
How can I protect myself from keyloggers?
Avoid keyloggers by avoiding the user mistakes that lead to their ability to infect phones and computers. It starts with keeping your operating system, your applications, and web browsers up to date with the latest security patches. Always be skeptical about any attachments you receive, especially unexpected ones even if they seem to come from someone you know. When in doubt, contact the sender to ask. Keep your passwords long and complex, and avoid using the same one for different services.
Real-time, always-on anti-malware protection is the gold standard for preventing not only infection from a keylogger, but also from all other associated malware threats. For all platforms and devices, from Windows and Android, Mac and iPhones, to business environments, Malwarebytes is a first-line defense against the relentless onslaught of cybercriminal attacks.
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