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What is Keylogging?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many people use the internet to check their e-mails, bank accounts, shop, and to send personal and private information to others. Most Web sites are usually safe, but criminals have found a way to steal a user's information right off his keyboard. Keylogging is a process of recording a person's key strokes, usually without the person's knowledge, and sending the information to an intended target. Doing this, a person can learn everything that is typed on a computer to use as they will. It is also possible to track a person's computer use using this technology.

Before anyone can detect what is being typed on a certain computer, the person has to gain access to the computer keyboard. This can be done in two ways: with keylogging software and with hardware. Keylogging hardware usually records what a user types on his keyboard and stores it in a mini hard disk until it is physically retrieved. These devices are commonly disguised as keyboard plugs and therefore can be difficult to detect. In addition, since it is hardware, anti-virus programs cannot usually detect it.

Keylogging software, on the other hand, does not need a physical access point. This type of keylogger can be downloaded onto a computer without the user's knowledge. Once installed on the computer, it can then record the data typed on the keyboard and occasionally send that data to a target person. That target person can then have access to anything typed on the computer. Though this type of keylogger can be difficult to detect by a user, some anti-virus software may be able to identify it.

One of the most common uses for keylogging is the theft of personal information. Should a criminal use the software or hardware to capture personal information, he can use that information for his own use. For instance, he can go on a shopping spree using the victim's credit card information. This is why it is important for users to do all they can to protect themselves from such intruders. Knowing and understanding the programs running in the computer background and having the appropriate kind of updated anti-malware software are just two methods a person can use to help protect his personal information.

Some may argue there are some good aspects to keylogging. Parents can use the technology to monitor children's activities. It can also be used by companies to monitor an employee's computer use. It may even help save important documents that are lost due to a power outage. These activities, however, may bring up privacy rights issues, so it is important to use these programs in such a way as to not break local laws.

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