What is Keylogger in Cyber Security – Definition, Types & Detection Techniques

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On September 21st, 2023
Reading Time 10 Minutes Reading

Ever felt suspicious about everything you type on your keyword being recorded and logged? Then, there is a high chance of having a keylogger on your device. Yes, there is some spyware that exists in the cyber world to monitor user activity for different purposes. So, without further ado, let’s explore what is keylogger in cyber security.

Keylogger Definition Cyber Security

Keylogger Meaning: Keylogger or Keystroke logger is a malicious computer program specially designed to monitor & log keystrokes entered by users on their keyboards. August 2022 LastPass breach was the biggest keylogger attack example.

While there are legitimate and legal uses for keyloggers, cyber criminals use them to fulfill malicious purposes.

Basically, in a keylogger attack, the malicious software records every keystroke on the victim’s device. It’s a type of spyware that intensely monitors user activity and sends the information to the hacker. So that, the malicious actor can use that information to get into your system & access the user’s sensitive information. Also, continuously trace user actions.

Though keylogger attacks usually involve malicious purposes but not always. Sometimes this computer software has legal uses. And, they are used by;

  • Parents – to monitor their child’s screen time.
  • Companies – to track employees’ productivity as a part of an employee monitoring system.
  • IT department – to troubleshoot problems on a device

Undoubtedly, keyloggers have positive uses, but, the negative uses have the upper hand. Most of the time keystroke loggers are used by cybercriminals to commit cybercrime.

How Keylogger Work? Know their Operation

Keyloggers are spread through a variety of techniques, but they all have the same purpose. Each one of them stores entered data and transmit it to a recipient. Here are some examples of how keyloggers could spread via being installed on devices:

  • Scripts for web pages. A web page can have malicious code added by hackers. The keylogger is downloaded into your device automatically when you click an infected link or go to a malicious website.
  • Phishing. Phishing emails, which are false messages made to appear real, are a tool used by hackers. The keylogger downloads into your device when you open a malicious attachment or click a malicious link.
  • Using social engineering. A technique used to deceive individuals into disclosing private information. To get the receiver to accept an attachment and download malware, hackers may pose as a trusted contact.
  • An unknown program was obtained from the internet. In software downloaded from the internet, keyloggers might be included by malicious users. Unknowingly, keylogging software is downloaded together with the software you intended to download.

As a matter of fact, keyloggers come in different variants.

Types of Keyloggers in Cyber Security

Generally, Keyloggers are categorized into two parts. One is a hardware keylogger and the other is a software keylogger. 

If you go down history lane, the first keylogger was created as a hardware one in the 1970s, while the first software key logger was created in 1983.

Hardware Keyloggers

These are hardware keyloggers, thus they don’t rely on any software to function. Keyboard hardware is a circuit that is integrated into the keyboard so that it records each time a key is pressed.

  • USB keylogger – This is a type of keylogger with USB connectors that must be linked to a computer in order to steal data. Additionally, several keyboard circuits are built-in, therefore no external wire was utilized, and nothing is visible on the keyboard.
  • Smartphone sensors – Some fascinating Android techniques, like the accelerometer sensor, which detects vibrations when placed close to the keyboard and uses a graph to turn them into phrases, are also used as key loggers. The accuracy of this technique is around 80%. Keystroke logging Trojan is software that is transmitted to a victim’s computer to collect data.

Software Keyloggers

These types of keyloggers are computer programs created with the intention of stealing passwords from the victim’s machine. To solve technical issues with computers and corporate networks, key loggers are nevertheless employed by IT departments. 

  • A malicious software called a JavaScript-based key logger is installed on a web page and watches for key presses like oneKeyUp(). These scripts can be distributed using a variety of channels, including social media, email, and RAT files.
  • Keyloggers that are form-based activate when a person fills out an online form, and when they click the “Submit” button, all of the data or words are sent to a file on a computer. Some keyloggers function as an API in running applications.

Other Types of Keyloggers You Should Know

Apart from hardware and software keyloggers, API-based, Kernel-based, and Acoustic keyloggers are also other types of keyloggers.

  • The majority types of keyloggers are API-based. These keylogging programs record your keystrokes by using the keyboard API, or application programming interface. A notice is delivered to the application you are typing in each time you hit a key, causing the typed character to appear on the screen. These notifications are intercepted by API-based keyloggers, who record each one as a distinct event. Then, in order to give the hacker easy access, the logs are saved in a file on the system hard disc. 
  • Keyloggers that are based on the kernel of your computer’s operating system are extremely difficult to find and delete because they interfere with the kernel, which is the system’s core. They remain undetected within your operating system, intercepting your keystrokes as they move through the kernel. These keyloggers are more uncommon compared to other software-based kinds since they are more challenging to create. They can circumvent your computer’s kernel and target the hardware thanks to rootkits, and malicious software packages.
  • Acoustic keyloggers, another type of keylogger, are extremely complicated and thus hardly used. Your keystrokes are captured on the hardware level using the methods of acoustic cryptanalysis. Whatever keyboard you’re using, every key has its own acoustic signature. Although the differences are small, individual signatures can be found by examining a sample using a number of statistical techniques. But this takes a lot of time, and the findings might not be as precise as with other keylogger types.

Some of the top keyloggers examples are – 

  1. Windows Keylogger
  2. Kids Keylogger
  3. Best Free Keylogger
  4. ikey monitor log in

What Information Keyloggers Can Capture?

Keyloggers record each keystroke made when they are active and save the information in a file. Hackers have access to this file at a later time, or the keylogger program can send the file to the hacker automatically. Some screen recorders, often known as keyloggers, have the ability to randomly record your entire screen.

Additionally, it can identify keyboard patterns, making it simpler to find sensitive data. This spyware can be set up to check for a specific keystroke, like the at symbol (@) if a hacker is searching for password information. The software then only alerts them when you are likely to provide a password and email username. By using this method, malevolent individuals can quickly find sensitive information without having to go through all of their keyboard data.

In fact, Keystroke loggers pose a serious threat to individuals as well as business enterprises. The reason being:

Through keyloggers, hackers can;

  • Steal credit card information and make unauthorized purchases without your knowledge.
  • Secretly access your email ID and steal information & further scam contacts.
  • Stealthy log in to your bank account and extract money from there.
  • Access the organization’s network and steal confidential data.

But, the question is how to find that your system has a keylogger.

Signs of Keyloggers – Learn How to Detect Keyloggers?

Since keyloggers in cyber security are monitoring software, they operate covertly in the background of the system. Therefore, it becomes challenging to find it. They can be found on any device; on PC, on Laptop, on Mac, etc. Your system will, however, exhibit some odd behaviors that might point to the presence of Keyloggers. 

Here are the signs noticing which you can detect keyloggers:

  • The system frequently hangs and becomes slow. It can be a result of Keylogger continuously utilizing system resources.
  • Internet consumption is strangely increasing. Keyloggers may exchange the data they have gathered with their author over the Internet.
  • Your mouse cursor or keystrokes may be monitored by Keystroke if they frequently pause or reply slowly.

Now, let’s see how can you get rid of such keyloggers from your system if you find one.

How to Remove a Keylogger? Know the Different Ways 

Keyloggers are difficult to detect and difficult to remove from a computer system. The actions listed below will assist you in permanently removing Keyloggers from the system.

  • Examine the running programs and processes by launching the Windows Task Manager. Keep an eye out for any dubious ones that are using up system resources needlessly.
  • Another way to remove a keylogger is to navigate to the suspicious processes’ location by selecting them with the right click.
  • Remove them from the Control Panel or delete every one of their files.
  • It is advised to buy an all-around antimalware software if you find these processes laborious and want to remove the Keyloggers permanently from the device. You won’t need to do anything because antimalware software is specifically made to find and get rid of harmful malware including spyware like keyloggers.

How to Prevent Keystroke Loggers from Interfering?

A keylogger can be found, but that is only the first step in staying safe. To prevent keyloggers on your devices, you must take proactive security measures:

  • Before agreeing, always read the terms of service and any contracts. Before you sign up, you should be aware of what you’re consenting to. Finding user reviews of the software you intend to install may also be a good source of advice.
  • On all of your gadgets, install internet security software. Keyloggers that are malicious typically enter devices through software. You will have an active defense against infections if you use a security software package like Kaspersky Anti-Virus.
  • Make sure your security software is current with regard to risks. For your security to effectively detect keyloggers, it must contain every definition currently in use. To defend against keylogger malware and other risks, many contemporary products automatically update.
  • Keep an eye on your computer and mobile devices. Your smartphone might be all that a thief needs if they can steal it or even just get their hands on it briefly. Keep your gadgets close by to help stop keyloggers from being inserted.
  • Maintain software updates for all other devices. The most recent security updates for your operating system, software, and web browsers should all be installed. Make careful to download and install updates as soon as they are available.
  • Use only well-known USB drives and external hard drives. These tools are frequently left in public areas by criminals to tempt you to take them and use them. Once connected, they can access your computer or mobile device and start logging in.

The Bottom Line

Keylogger attacks had been there in the 70s and still have an adverse effect on individuals and business enterprises. You can say, with time it only evolved. So, the best way to stay safe from ever-evolving cyber threats is to deploy advanced cybersecurity measures. That includes regular scanning and performing vulnerability assessments on your assets. When in confusion while choosing what security measures suit you the best, contact our experts. They can guide you and help you make your organization, a cybersafe place.

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