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What is a Keylogger?

Keylogger is one kind of surveillance technology that is used to monitor and capture keystrokes of a specific device. It can work from both hardware and software endpoints.

What is a Keylogger? Figure 1. What is a Keylogger?

At first glance, a keylogger appears to be completely safe. A keylogger is a powerful weapon in the hands of a hacker or cybercriminal to collect personal information.

Attackers may use keyloggers to get harmful access to personal data, while businesses may use them to observe staff operations. Screen recording software is similar to keyloggers in that they may capture the screen at regular periods.

In general, keyloggers are activity-tracking applications that allow hackers to access private user information. By monitoring the keystrokes, one may keep track of the login information and credit card details that you input and the websites you browse.

Keyloggers are amongst the most harmful types of malware since, whether they're performing their task correctly, you won't even notice they're operating. They work quietly in the background, stealing financial information, and credentials for as much as they can avoid notice.

Why is Keylogger Important?

There are quite a variety of keylogging techniques available, extending from software to hardware. There are advantages to utilizing a keylogger, despite the common notion that they are exclusively used to steal sensitive information and secret information. The majority of keyloggers enter your computer via a virus or spyware, both of which are harmful. Nevertheless, there is keylogger software that may be used to surveil a computer as well.

In workplaces, keylogging software is often utilized to evaluate workers' activity. This is mainly done to make sure whether the staff is properly utilizing the resources of the company. It may appear invasive at first, but it is an excellent approach to make staff more focused by prohibiting them from ever using company equipment for any free time or advantage.

Keylogging software may be used in your house to keep track of the children or teens' internet activity. Several remote management applications for parents are available nowadays, but anyone with a basic understanding of technology can defeat them.

A keylogger will not block children from getting valuable things over the web, but it will keep track of their activity so that you can intervene if things get out of control.

Furthermore, a keylogger may be used on a home machine to learn how it operates and what errors to minimize to avoid falling into such a trap.

The fundamental goal of keyloggers is to intercept any two parts of the network of events occurring between how a key is pushed and then when the information of keystroke is presented on the panel.

Keyloggers that conceal the contents to avoid detection by humans or antivirus programs have grown more common. Rootkit technologies are indeed the name for such nonlethal methods. Trying to mask in user space and hiding in kernel mode are also the two basic rootkit mechanisms employed by spyware.

How Does Keylogger Work?

Keyloggers often steal information and collect it. Then give them to a third party. Often keylogger is also used for good reason, like if the employee is cheating or for national reasons. But it is always unethical and has a considerable risk of hacking. Data captured by keyloggers can be sent back to the attacker via email or uploading log data to predefined websites, databases, or FTP servers. If the keyloggers come bundled within a significant attack, actors might simply remotely log into a machine to download keystroke data.

Keyloggers are two types:

  • Hardware keyloggers

Hardware keylogger mainly built-in keyboard or USB port or cables that allows to record keystrokes and sends information. Ordinary hardware based keylogger uses hardware circuit that keeps log of keystrokes from the hardware endpoints. It logs all keyboard activity to its internal memory, which can be accessed by typing in a series of predefined characters.

  • Software keyloggers

Software keyloggers the term refers to third-party software that has access to every information, including call log, call recording, banking information, etc. Websites are also responsible for various malware keylogging cookies. More sophisticated websites or applications may collect every information like GPS location, screengrabs, copied and pasted information, and even microphone and camera capture.

How Does Keylogger Infect Devices?

Keyloggers may be installed on computers in a variety of methods. Physical keylogging tools depend on the existence of a human to be installed on a system, making such attempts extremely difficult, not unattainable to carry out, far more willing to return from a cybersecurity breach.

Keyloggers that are software-based are significantly more popular and have various access points. A frequent attack tactic is using infected domains. Apps that have been infected with malware are likewise a problem.

As part of a larger operation, keyloggers are frequently packed with other malware. Many keyloggers now include spyware, bitcoin extraction, or malware which the offender can trigger at any time.

Every keyboard input performed on a system is recorded by a keylogger, typically without the participant's knowledge or consent. When all of this data gets logged within a keylogger, it's as if you're eavesdropping in on a secret discussion. You think you're just 'having a conversation' with your IoT devices, whereas someone else was listening as well as taking notes on what you disclosed. We exchange a lot of compassionate information on our gadgets as our lives become digitized.

Recorded keystroke information may readily be used to piece together user behavior and personal information. It's all inputted into systems, from online payment access to security credentials.

How to Detect Keylogger?

Like other kinds of malware, unwanted keylogging software gets placed on the machine whenever a user downloads anything suspicious. It might originate from an apparently legitimate webpage that contains spyware, an infected email file, or potentially harmful software. Downloading the most recent version of an anti-malware application is the most straightforward technique to identify a keylogger. Some key logger indications might also be caused by outdated or crowded equipment or by other types of malware such as adware.

Without the use of software, keylogging software might be challenging to detect. Malware and other possibly malicious files can eat up valuable resources of the computer. Energy consumption, internet traffic, and CPU utilization might all rise, causing you to believe you're infected. Keylogging software doesn't usually produce obvious errors and bugs, such as delayed operations or errors.

For further inspection, check your computer's task manager whether any suspicious process is running and monitor the services that are processing. Make sure that no unauthorized process is causing damage to your computer security.

Often keyloggers can run actively from temporary files. In most cases, download starts automatically without the administrator's concern because of hidden malware and keylogger in the temporary files. Clear temporary files from the computer and make sure no keylogger is hidden in the folder. However, deleting temporary files does not harm the computer, often it increases the computer's performance.

Firewalls can detect keyloggers more frequently as there are many firewalls available to monitor IT security as well as network security. Such computer security technology can detect keyloggers and take prompt action against the keylogger if it is requested to perform.

A quick loss of data is quite prevalent and one of the first indicators. Spyware frequently runs many tasks in the device's background, collecting or damaging the majority of your personally identifiable information.

It's always a smart option for users to never click on pop-up or banner advertisements. Users are bombarded with advertisements. While these advertisements may be appealing, users ought to be careful when clicking or opening them.

Suppose you discover that an unfamiliar program is constantly downloading on your computer even if it is not installed. In that case, you probably have a new danger on your device. Furthermore, programs crash on sometimes but not regularly; nevertheless, if you see that your applications are repeatedly malfunctioning, it is almost certainly an indication that there is a new threat on the computer.

How to Remove Keylogger from Devices?

A well-designed business quality keylogger typically runs perfectly and has no negative impact on the device. The keylogger hides itself as regular files or traffic while delivering reports to a remote operator. In other cases, such as in a business computer environment, the applications will even display a warning on the screen that the system is being watched. Someone else can reapply themselves if users are able to locate them and try to uninstall them.

A keylogger can be removed using multiple ways. When you successfully identify the keylogger, it is easy to remove the specific infected file responsible for recording keystrokes and sending the data to unauthorized persons. However, detecting a keylogger is the hardest part before removing it.

First, check all of your data and make sure that no suspicious files are affecting the computer. Do not forget to check the file extension and delete any unwanted files. However, checking every file manually may consume a vast amount of time and afford. Keylogger removing tools can help in this circumstance at most.

Tools that remove keyloggers are specially programmed to detect the keylogger and make them disable. The program lets the administrator know when to find a keylogger or similar type of application that records keystrokes. Moreover, it applies some pre-assigned tasks when it finds malware or keylogger in the device.

Furthermore, the applications seem to be the easiest way to remove keyloggers; still, they do not comply with all types of keyloggers. Often attackers encrypt keyloggers and make them unable to detect. However, an updated anti-keylogger application can protect against most keyloggers.

What are the Methods of Protection from Keylogger?

Keyloggers are very common nowadays. Though all of these keyloggers are not supposed to harm computers, many of them could cause trouble in the performance of the computer. Obviously, the best approach to defend you and your computer against keyloggers is to regularly examine the system with a good cybersecurity tool. However, some security measures could protect your devices from keylogger such as-

  • Read terms and conditions before accepting any agreement while installing any new application. You should know the purpose of the application and how it is going to function on the computer. A clear understanding of the terms and conditions will help choose which permission the application needs to run in the computer environment.
  • Do not forget to use security software on all of your devices. Any of your devices could carry malware and let your entire IT environment get affected by that malware. Mainly, the malware carries keyloggers and installs into the target devices. Use security applications on all of your devices to avoid unexpected threats.
  • Make sure that you are using the latest version of the security software. Old and outdated software cannot fight against newly developed keyloggers where the updated applications can detect easily. Keep not only your security software updated but also all applications should be updated with recent security patches.
  • Prohibit yourself from using unfamiliar USB devices and external drivers. Your computer can be affected by keyloggers and other malicious programs from unknown USB drivers. Try not to use any unknown device and scan the device before connecting to your computer.

What's the Difference Between Adware, Spyware, and Keyloggers?

Adware, Spyware, and Keyloggers are three similar types of malicious programs that work differently on different attack surfaces. Adware is intended to spread advertisements where spyware and keyloggers are used to spy on other people. Adware, often known as a media ads program, is a type of program that produces adverts for a firm that charges to have its ads displayed. Spyware, as the name implies, is software that monitors users' buying and surfing behavior.


Adware is included with the application in genuine software. Many corporations could also provide consumers with limited-time trial software, whereupon the user can choose to pay for the product. Developers typically view adware as a means to recoup production planning expenditures.

In Adware, the advertisements occur in two places: the computer's user interface and the instruction during setup. Adware can sometimes be inserted as a pop-up, which is activated by following a button. The goal is to raise user awareness of such a webpage, which produces revenue for the corporation whenever a button is pressed or visits it.

Many applications, like Skype, and many more, provide a free trial containing adverts, but buyers may upgrade to a commercial version after installing the software.


As the name suggests, spyware is used for surveillance. Installed spyware on a system is regarded as an imminent danger since it may access private data and sell it to marketing organizations. This program is in charge of acquiring details about an individual without their awareness and distributing it to a third party without any of the user's permission. Among those, trojan, malicious code, adware, and monitoring cookies are the four primary forms of spyware.

Spyware has been most typically used to trace a user's preferences and subsequently display pop-up advertisements to individuals. Companies deploy malware such as spyware to keep a watch on their staff. It can become hazardous whenever spyware seeks private data such as bank details, credit card credentials, usernames, and passcodes.

Key differences between the adware, spyware, and keylogger

Several dangers can be transmitted with a single installation, blurring the line among these three categories of malicious programs. All of that is frequently performed by primary malware deployment leveraging a security vulnerability to provide a gateway by which further programs may be loaded. As a result, the more users use an infected machine, and the more that causes damage.

Here are some key differences among the malware:

  • Spyware is a type of virus that collects users' confidential info and is comparable to adware in that it may be both intrusive and difficult to remove. But, keyloggers are designed to monitor activity by recording keystrokes.
  • The main objective of adware is to monitor users preferences and show targeted advertisements to make profit. On the other hand, spyware and keylogger are both used as surveillance technology to track users' activity.
  • Adware and spyware can both be detected by antivirus and malware protection software. Often it becomes hard to detect highly encrypted keyloggers but not impossible for the security tools to detect and remove the keylogger.
  • Adwares directly generate profit to the developers by serving advertisements from multiple vendors where spyware and keyloggers are used to provide monetary feedback to the third party by collecting and sharing users' private data.
  • Adwares are not compared as harmful as spyware and keyloggers. Moreover, adware does nothing without showing advertisements when spyware and keyloggers steal personal data and credentials and hand over the data to unauthorized individuals.

History of Keylogger

The world's first keylogger was invented and used by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Soviet spies miniaturized the device; it can be acknowledged as an engineering marvel. It was a series of circuits stuffed into a metal bar that could not be seen in the naked eye. Only by using an X-ray can it be seen. It was undetected for almost eight years during the cold war. This device was customized with very little memory, and also it drew power from the typewriter. Though some had batteries, the Soviets had eight years to update every version of the bug.

The Soviets planted these updated devices between 1976 and 1984. Bugs were found hidden inside the typewriter and can not be seen with naked eyes. After noticing the movements of metal bars inside those bugs were detected. These bugs were also found in Selectric II and III models.

As the bug was undetected for almost eight years, the NSA mentioned, It was difficult to quantify the damage to the US from this exploitation because it went on for such a long time.

It was implanted in IBM Selectric typewriters to chase US classified letters. IBM Selectric typewriters were invented in 1961 and became very popular. In 1984 there was another case of keylogging. A miniaturized keylogger was found in 16 Selectric typewriters in the US Embassy in Moscow and the US consulate in Leningrad.

To detect how the Soviets recovered texts the NSA had to face lots of trouble. Because there is a variety of confusion on what was typed and the characters they used, the NSA analysts stated there is a big possibility that the Soviets used laws of probability to determine the text. Fun fact is it is being said that the way keylogger was used NSA learned during that time, NSA can still apply it to cyber security crime.

In 1983 America was alerted by the French that they found bugs in their equipment. So in 1984, they called a mission named Project Gunman; the plan was to get rid of all bugs. The Embassy exchanged very few of the typewriters as the supply of IBM 220v was short. NSA decided to replace specific significant typewriters, so some staff were happy after getting new equipment without cost.

Finally, the NSA was able to remove 11 tons of bugged equipment. These equipment were immediately shipped to the USA under high security. It was rarely an idea that the Soviets would bug the cryptic machine, but it was a surprise about typewriters as well. The cryptic machine was X-rayed but found nothing. Other non-secure items were checked as well. Eventually, in July 1984, something was found in the X-ray of a Selectric's power switch. Mike Arenson was the first person who discovered this. The whole machine was X-rayed again and made a find worth $5000.

Now, these bugs are being used as keylogger apps. Though sometimes for a good reason. Still, according to NSA, under state and federal laws, unauthorized access to another person's information on a computer is illegal. This malware can be either a software keylogger or a hardware keylogger. There is no single way to remove undetectable keyloggers, but most anti-keylogger is considerably good against even the best keylogger.