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Keyloggers

A keylogger is a programme that is capable of recording the input you make to your computer with your keyboard.
They have a variety of uses and are available commercially on the internet, marketed as applications to allow you to see what your child, spouse, employee etc. is doing. They have their place in terms of safety, or when there is a need or right to know what someone is typing, but essentially, they are used as a 'spying' tool.
Now, think back what you have typed on your keyboard in, say the last month. There will be at least passwords, possibly personal details, account numbers, credit card details etc. Now what if there was a keylogger installed in your computer which you did not know about, and it had not been put there by someone who was just 'keeping an eye' on who you were talking to, or what about. and what if a record of your keystrokes were being sent back straight into the computer of the person who put it there. A more sophisticated one can also capture 'screen shots', so its creator can see what your input was in relation to, this is particularly useful to them if you were completing a form.
If you were not already aware of these dangers, I hope by now you have realised they are a real threat.

So, how can one get into your computer without you knowing, and how will you know if there is one there?
Keyloggers are just a computer programme, they cannot themselves wander around the internet looking for computers to infect, they have to be put in there and installed by someone, or something.
They usually work in conjunction with a Trojan, that will carry it into a PC, install it, and then send back the recorded information to its creator. They have also been known to be dropped in computers by Drive by downloads, or placed directly into a computer by a Cracker, who breaks into vulnerable computers. He/she might also place a Trojan to send back the recorded data, or simply return on another day to collect the file.

Detecting and removing them is as simple as downloading software that is designed to do the job, there is a list of recommended ones below.

Preventing them installing in the first place requires a combination of security applications, due to the different ways they can be installed. It should be noted though that these things are not installed for nothing, the intention is usually to carry out some form of identity theft, and these people are usually pretty determined and can use a combination of malicious software, including things that can bypass, re-configure, or even disable programmes you have installed to protect you.
  • A firewall will help prevent any person or programme from getting into or out of your computer.
  • A scanner to detect Trojans and Spyware
  • Take steps to prevent Drive by downloads
  • Consider adding Process Guard to your armoury of protective software, it will prevent anything from attacking or changing programmes (like your security software or operating system). There is a free version available but the full version will block keyboard hooks.
Many spyware and Trojan scanners have a list of known keyloggers that they will detect and delete, there are also programmes specifically designed to deal with them.
Software to detect and remove keyloggers
A2 squared Comprehensive Malware/trojan scanner which has keyloggers in its capabilities. Free version available. Full version £16.50
Anti-keylogger A stand alone anti-keylogger application. It can even detect new, unknown or previously undetected keyloggers £31
Ewidow Powerful Malware scanner. A trial of the full version reverts to a free version (no background guard) after trial period.
McAfee AntiSpyware Spyware application that includes keyloggers in its database £15.50
Pest Patrol Detects and removes a wider range of parasites that any other single scanner, and includes KeyPatrol, an additional application specifically for key loggers. £22.11
Spybot S&D Possibly the most comprehensive and reliable Free scanner available
Trojan Remover Comprehensive Trojan and Malware detection and removal, specificaly target difficult to remove malware with ths capeability to repair infected/overwritten operating system files. freer trial available.
X-Cleaner Wide ranging malware scanner, Free version available. Full version £27
Where a price is quoted from a company outside the UK, the actual purchase price is may be subject to exchange rates at the time of ordering

You can also use an onscreen keyboard for entering sensitive details like credit card numbers. This is a keyboard which appears in the screen and is controlled by clicking your mouse, and not detected by key loggers. There is one available with Windows XP, to access it click Start > All programs > Accesories > Accessibility > On-screen keyboard. A free one is also included with the X-Cleaner scanner, Download X-Cleaner (Direct download).

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