Keylogger Malware: What It Is and How to Remove It
Keylogger software is a type of surveillance technology that is installed directly on your computer or device. But don’t let the name fool you–it can do a lot more than just log your keystrokes. Keyloggers can record everything you do on your computer or smartphone and send a report to the person or entity controlling it. It can even track your activity on a virtual keyboard.
Also known as system monitoring software, keylogger software (or hardware) can:
Hack into your webcam and watch you
Listen to you via your smartphone’s microphone
Record all the websites you visit
See anything you’ve copied to your clipboard
View virtual buttons on which you’ve clicked
Watch the data you’re transmitting over the internet
Are keyloggers illegal?
The answer to this question is: it depends. If the company you work for installs a keylogger on a work device they own, it’s legal. However, recent legal cases and privacy laws focused on protecting individual privacy should motivate organizations to publish and receive acknowledgement of their monitoring policies to avoid potentially violating state wiretap laws.
If a keylogger is installed on your personal computer or device to steal data without your knowledge, it’s illegal.
Why are keyloggers used?
Keylogger software can be used in a criminal capacity, but it can also be used by parents to monitor their children’s activity, by a suspicious spouse to spy on their partner, or by companies to monitor their employees’ activities. Corporations may also use it to monitor or troubleshoot their computer systems.
How to identify keylogger software
It’s important to point out that keyloggers do not damage computers or devices. In fact, they rely on you to be ignorant of its existence so they can continue to do the dirty work of spying on everything you do. But if you’re experiencing any of the following issues, keylogger malware may be responsible:
A sluggish browser
A cursor that keeps disappearing
Error messages for websites or graphics
A lag in mouse movement
Keystroke delays between typing and see them on the screen
Low-quality screenshots on smartphones
Advanced keylogger software can leave minimal clues, which makes it harder to uncover. This is why having an active antivirus program that can identify and automatically remove keyloggers is so important.
How does keylogger malware get inside your device?
When used maliciously, keylogger malware is downloaded onto your device without your knowledge or permission. The most common way it gets inside your device is when you click on a suspicious link that allows the malware to be secretly downloaded, although it can also occur when you visit an infected website.
Another way keyloggers can invade your computer is via your hardware. If you work in an open office or use a public computer, you’re at risk for this type of attack because anyone could plug a keylogger device into the computer you’re using without your knowledge. This is the easiest form of keylogger to remove—you just unplug it. Keep an eye on your USB plugs, too, as this is another way that hardware can be used to install and run keylogger malware.
Social engineering and keyloggers
Social engineering is a common cybersecurity tactic that preys on human vulnerabilities to gain access to devices. Hackers use social engineering to pretend they are someone you know or trust to entice you to click on a link or open an attachment. In corporations, hackers use social engineering on unsuspecting lower-level employees and are quite adept at working themselves up to the top levels of an organization as they gain additional access and information.
These types of cyberattacks occur most often through the following platforms:
To make matters worse, keylogger malware is often delivered with a slew of other malware programs that piggyback on the keylogger download, which can cause additional problems for your devices.
How to avoid keyloggers
The best way to avoid keyloggers is to install anti-keylogger software, but there are other steps you can take to protect yourself, such as staying aware of different methods by which keyloggers can infect your devices. Keep your device’s operating system up to date, and make sure your passwords are long and difficult to guess. Also, don’t use the same password for more than one account; if hackers break into one account, they can break into others that use that same password.
Additionally, you should:
Be wary about opening or downloading unexpected attachments
Think twice before you click on a link via email, text, or another messaging program
Install anti-keylogger software that works in real time and is always on
One additional thing to point out is that keylogger malware can track you even if you’re using browsers specifically designed for privacy. It doesn’t matter what type of browser you use or whether you work online or offline. Since keylogger malware is installed right onto your computer or device, it continues to track your keystrokes, movements, and screen activity, sending the data back to whoever is controlling it when the device is connected to the internet.
How to remove keylogger malware
As stated above, the best way to keep keylogger malware off your devices is to have antivirus or anti-keylogger software always on and up to date, as new malicious exploits pop up that may require updated rules or indicators to detect, isolate, and remove novel keyloggers.
If it’s not frustrating enough to have keylogger installed in the first place, there are some advanced versions that will actually reinstall themselves if you try to delete them. This is why using keylogger virus software is so important. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid letting it get installed on your system to begin with by scanning your system often with up-to-date antivirus software.
Not all antivirus software is equal, so if you still suspect you have a keylogger after trying 1-2 different antivirus solutions without success, consider engaging with a professional to utilize more advanced tools to look for less obvious and/or novel malicious software.