What is a keylogger?

Keystroke logging, or keylogging, is the act of recording everything that is typed on the keyboard for a given system, typically without the user’s knowledge or permission. Keyloggers can be software- or hardware-based, and can even have legitimate purposes. For instance, businesses or employers may install keyloggers to monitor how their computers are being used. However, keyloggers are most commonly used to steal information.

Think about everything you type in a day. Various passwords, credit card information or financial account numbers, your home address, your social security number, the name of your first pet—there are plenty of things you type into your keyboard that you wouldn’t want someone else to be able to see. A keylogger on your system would record every one of your keystrokes over a period of time and expose them to the keylogger’s author, thereby giving them easy access to every piece of personal or confidential information you may have typed. 

Because keylogging also has legitimate purposes, it can be fairly hard to detect. Additionally, software-based keylogging malware can live in a number of places on your machine, such as in memory or at the keyboard API level, and they can run relatively silently, so that you wouldn’t know they’re there from a computer glitch, slowdown, or other out-of-the-norm system behavior. Luckily, a number of antispyware and other internet security solutions include protection against keylogging malware. Be sure to use one of these to help keep yourself and your family safe from these spying threats.

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