A keylogger (keystroke logger) is a type of surveillance software used to record the keystrokes made on a device. This data is then sent, often without the user s knowledge, to whoever installed the keylogger.

The legality of keyloggers depends on their use. They have been used by employers to ensure that employees are not using work computers for personal or unprofessional use. Parents have also been known to install keyloggers to keep track of their child s online activities. They have even been known to be used by law enforcement to obtain data from criminal s computers.

While the above uses are legal, keyloggers are better known for their nefarious use as a data-stealing tool. Cybercriminals will use keyloggers to obtain sensitive information like usernames, passwords, banking, credit card, or private information.

Types of keyloggers

Hardware keyloggers must be physically installed on a computer or keyboard. The most common comes in USB form, but you can also find module versions as well as keyboards with it already installed.

Software keyloggers are designed to target a computer s software and can be installed remotely. Cybercriminals can target users with a software keylogger malware in the form of a trojan horse or rootkit.

Avoiding keyloggers

The best way to avoid or detect keyloggers is to invest in an antivirus, anti-malware, or anti-logger program. If given the option, type sensitive information like a username or password on a virtual or on-screen keyboard. Virtual keyboards record data differently than physical keyboards, which can help safeguard your data against some forms of keylogging.

Since keyloggers are often installed via a trojan horse, it is also important to never open email attachments or run programs from unknown sources.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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