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Keyloggers Explained - How Does It Work

Keyloggers Explained - How Does It Work

Keyloggers are the ultimate threat to privacy and computer security, and having one installed on your computer or any other computer which you happen to use can quickly lead to a security nightmare. A keylogger typically comes in the form of a malicious program which ends up on your computer, although there are legitimate programs with keylogging functions which are commercially available.

Even more bothersome are hardware keyloggers, which being physical devices with no software component installed on your computer, are impossible to detect using security software. This article takes a look at the subject of keyloggers and how to deal with them.

Keyloggers Explained - How Does It Work

How Keyloggers Work

As the name suggests, the purpose of a keylogger is to record every keystroke on your computer's keyboard. They're usually associated with malware, since they are invariably used for nefarious purposes. Since a keylogger records everything entered on the keyboard, a keylogger captures passwords, bank account details, credit card numbers, private messages and absolutely anything else typed out. Worse still, most keyloggers broadcast the records over the Internet.

In conclusion, if you have such a keylogger installed on your computer, everything you type will be seen by the criminal party, and this can in turn give them access to everything from your bank account to your Facebook account.

In addition to the malicious software version, there are also hardware keyloggers around. These are connected between a computer's keyboard and the USB port to intercept the information sent from the keyboard to the computer, and as these are physical devices, they cannot be detected by antivirus software. If you are using a computer which is exposed to the public, a criminal can connect a hardware keylogger and sneak it away after some time to find out what you've been typing.

How Keyloggers Get on Your Computer


Keyloggers are among the most common type of malicious software. They end up on your computer just like any other malware. The following takes a look at some of the most common possibilities.


  • You downloaded a file from a torrent site or other dubious website which contains a keylogger or a Trojan which may be used by a criminal to upload a keylogger to your computer.
  • You fell for an online phishing scam in which a website or email newsletter, posing as something legitimate, fooled you into downloading malicious software.
  • The keylogger was installed by someone who normally has access to your computer. Keyloggers may be used by suspicious spouses, employers who want to monitor their staff or even parents who want to know what their children are up to online.

Monitoring in the Workplace

Keyloggers are not always categorized as malicious software. There are many monitoring programs and remote desktop applications which provide a keylogging feature. These programs are often used in the workplace for the purposes of monitoring employees or exposing confidential information leaks. In many parts of the world, it is perfectly legal for employers to monitor their staff in this manner, although they are usually legally obligated to warn them in advance. 

However, you should not rely on this fact. If you're in the habit of occasionally checking Facebook or your personal emails while at work, as many people are, know that your employer may be monitoring you using a keylogger. Even for this reason alone, you should avoid using work computers for any personal usage. The same applies to laptops borrowed from your workplace.

Getting Rid of Keyloggers


In the vast majority of cases, keyloggers arrive in the form of malicious software, although even those which are commercially available and legitimate programs should still be flagged by any decent antivirus software. Having antivirus software running in the background at all times should normally prevent keyloggers from getting on your system, provided that you keep it up-to-date at all times.


Windows comes with Windows Defender, a basic but free antimalware program which constantly monitors and protects your computer in the background. Unlike many antivirus programs, it is completely unobtrusive, and it consumes minimal system resources. By default, Windows Defender is kept running at all times, and it is automatically updated. However, Windows Defender is a very basic solution, and many people should consider getting a more sophisticated antivirus solution.


If someone close to you has installed a keylogger on your computer, they will probably have reconfigured the antivirus software to allow it, in which case you will only be able to find out by looking at the allowed list in your antivirus software.

Doing Your Own Detective Work With A Keylogger

If you happen to have a situation where a person you need to monitor uses your computer often, the keylogger is guaranteed to tell you everything you want to know. This is a cheap piece of software that can point you toward information that will be tough to swallow at first, but may save you heartache in the long run.

It’s basically undetectable

The beauty and scary side of a keylogger is that the person using the computer won’t know you’re tracking them, because it doesn’t show up as a downloaded program. This is a necessity, because a person who knows that you’re keeping tabs on them will be careful not to raise any red flags.

Some computers will think the keylogger is a Trojan virus, so once you install it, you may want to either disable your antivirus software or create an exception.

Real, unfiltered information

Have you ever dreamt of being a private investigator? The keylogger is the next best thing, as you’ll get actual insight into a person’s life based on your own detective work. Unlike following a person tirelessly, the keylogger will give you raw information straight from the source.

If you’re afraid your kids have been using drugs, a glimpse into their Google searches or message board posts will quickly reveal that. If you think your spouse or significant other has been cheating, the keylogger will reveal entire e-mail conversations they’ve typed. When a keylogger is installed, there is really nowhere to run or hide.

The best part is that the keylogger can send daily, hourly or even up to the minute logs of this activity to your e-mail address. This does away with the need to log into their computer every time you want to get an update.

Quick, easy, installation

The biggest requirement for a keylogger is the ability to get in and get out. You don’t want to get caught installing the software on your spouse’s computer. That would raise suspicion or create an argument that would blow your cover. Most keylogger programs install within a couple of minutes and with ease. You simply download or run the program and the keylogger does the rest.

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