How Does A Keylogger Work

How does a keylogger work? Knowing how hackers use keylogger software to spy on you can help you protect yourself and defend your data every step of the way.

A keylogger records your keystrokes.
On the simplest level, keylogger software is a program that records your keystrokes and reports that information back to a third party. Regardless of the form that the keylogger takes, this is the goal. By recording your keystrokes, a keylogger can bypass encryption on passwords and usernames, thus negating the security of secure sites. In a criminal setting, the goal of keylogging is to obtain sensitive personal information, such as financial institution usernames and passwords, or other information to enable identity theft. However, keyloggers aren't always utilized in a criminal setting; some companies use keyloggers to track employee activity and monitor employee Internet use.

How does a keylogger work to report your keystrokes back to a third party.
Keylogger software requires an active Internet connection to report your sensitive personal data back to a third party. A keylogger program typically sends packets of personal information through an unsecured port in your Internet connection to a database or remote location, where criminals can monitor all activity or set up searches for sensitive financial data or other personal information.

In the event of a hardware keylogger, typically installed by a company monitoring employees, the keylogger data is saved in a hard drive contained in the hardware device. The person placing the hardware keylogger must come back and collect the device, and then extract the data from the hard drive. Hardware keyloggers typically don't send data to remote locations, and therefore don't require Internet connections to function.

Avoid downloading keyloggers in the first place.
Unless your boss already installed a keylogger, keylogging software can only get onto your computer if you give it an avenue to get on your computer. Knowing the answer to "how does a keylogger work" means you can avoid downloading keylogger software in the first place. You won't have to worry about what it's reporting, or to whom. Only download software from trusted sources, and avoid downloading potentially illegitimate software, including music and video files. Another popular route that software keyloggers use is via downloaded illegal software. If you avoid downloading illegal software, you deny keyloggers that popular point of access.

When you visit Web sites that want to use ActiveX controls, avoid enabling it unless you know the source and trust the content. ActiveX controls can actually install and run software on your computer, so it's important to enable this only if you're absolutely sure the source is legitimate and not attempting to install spyware or malware on your computer.

Block Internet access to prevent keyloggers from sending data.
Finally, software keyloggers require an active Internet connection to send your personal data to a third party. If you have a strong, secure firewall, or disconnect your Internet access, the keylogger can't report your data to the party responsible for installing it. If you're in the process of removing a keylogger, temporarily killing your Internet access by physically disconnecting it from your router or cable modem can prevent it from transmitting data while you're working to resolve the problem.

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