Out of all of the security concerns that modern computer users need to deal with, keyloggers are amongst the most insidious threats. A keylogger is a simple covert program or piece of hardware that is used to monitor and record a computer user’s every keystroke. The information obtained by keyloggers can be used to monitor an individual’s computer usage and capture personal information like credit card numbers and passwords. This data is often then sold by hackers to other criminals who use the information to exploit victims who often have no idea that they have been exploited until long after these crime has been committed.
There are two different types of keyloggers that are used by hackers today, hardware-based keyloggers and software-based keyloggers. Most hardware-based keyloggers come in the form of either a piece of hardware that is installed between a keyboard and the computer or as stealth keyboards that are designed to function as keyboard loggers. These types of keyloggers are typically used by family members or coworkers who monitoring an individual for particular information such as evidence of infidelity or valuable business information. There are also hackers that use keyboard sniffers to capture personal information on random victims through transmissions from wireless keyboards.
Software-based keyboard loggers pose a much more substantial threat to the average computer user. There are a number of different ways that a software-based keylogger can be installed onto a person’s computer undetected, but most of these programs come in the form of malware that can often be very difficult to detect. These types of keyloggers provide hackers with remote access to everything that a target has typed through a couple of different methods. Some of these programs allow a hacker to access this data directly to a person’s computer while others upload a victim’s daily or weekly keystrokes to an encrypted website or FTP account.
As a growing percentage of the public is becoming more comfortable with doing business and sharing information online, keyloggers present an increasingly serious security risk. While most computer users understand the risks of phishing scams and virus attacks, most people do not properly appreciate the threat that keyloggers pose to their privacy and financial security. A single undetected keyboard logger can capture usernames and passwords for every important account that a person manages online, including banking accounts, utility accounts and PayPal log in information. Over time, a hacker can capture so much personal information about an individual that he can steal his identity online overnight and do very serious damage to a victim’s financial assets. Thankfully, a growing number of dedicated security professionals are discovering new and effective ways to track these cybercriminals down and bring them to justice.