What’s a keylogger?
As its name indicates (“key”-“logger”), this term refers to a malicious computer program that secretly records every keystroke made by a computer user. Keyloggers are used to gain fraudulent access to confidential information such as personal details, credit card data, access credentials, etc.
TYPES OF KEYLOGGERS
There are two types of keyloggers, based on the method used to log keystrokes: software keyloggers and hardware keyloggers. Hardware-based keyloggers are rare, as they require having physical access to the victim’s device in order to manipulate the keyboard. However, software-based keyloggers are much more common, and may affect any device that is not properly protected. Usually, keyloggers are installed on target computers by other malware specimens, such as Trojans or viruses. For example, an attacker may trick the victim into clicking a malicious link, which then downloads the keylogger into the system.
FEATURES OF KEYLOGGERS
The enormous dangers of Keyloggers
Unlike other malware specimens, which delete data or hijack files and demand a ransom for their release, keyloggers are designed to go unnoticed while recording the user’s information. That’s why they are so difficult to detect. Keyloggers are usually employed in conjunction with other malicious programs, capturing keystrokes and sensitive information (bank account numbers, passwords, PINs, etc.) which cyber-crooks then leverage to steal corporate confidential data, impersonate users or carry out fraudulent financial transactions.
The infamous “PunkeyPOS” malware is a clear example of the devastating effects that keyloggers can have. This malware infected the point-of-sale (POS) terminals of hundreds of restaurants (mainly in the U.S.), extracting sensitive information belonging to thousands of individuals.
Another infamous example is that of “Eye Pyramid”, the cyber-espionage campaign that threatened the security of many of Italy’s public institutions earlier this year. “Eye Pyramid” was a cyber-espionage ring spearheaded by a brother and sister that installed a keylogger on victims’ computers to steal passwords and access confidential information. Among those affected were former Prime Ministers Matteo Renzi and Mario Monti, as well as the president of the Central European Bank, Mario Draghi, as well as other individuals in possession of sensitive data.
It’s now evident that the professionalization of keylogger-based attacks requires that companies and institutions implement systems that ensure data security. Adaptive Defense 360 is an intelligent cyber-security platform designed by Panda Security to eradicate advanced threats. Its dynamic approach, based on the principles of contextual intelligence, allows organizations to anticipate malicious behavior and prevent data theft. Thus, Adaptive Defense 360 is capable of detecting, blocking and remediating any attack before it even reaches its target.
Keylogger attack Definition
A keylogger refers to a malicious computer program that captures and records your keystrokes; that’s every word, character, and button you press on your keyboard. The keylogger sends a record of your keystrokes to the attacker. This record might contain your banking logins, credit and debit card details, social media passwords, and everything else in-between. In short, keyloggers are a dangerous tool in the battle against identity and financial fraud.
The overwhelming majority of keyloggers are bundled with other forms of malware. In the “old” days, the malware delivering a keylogger would remain silent for as long as possible. That means, unlike other virus and malware variants, files remain intact, there’s a little system disruption as possible, and you continue using your system as normal.
How to Detect Keyloggers Step 1 – Task Manager
The Task Manager enables you to see the active applications on the computer. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to open Task Manager. In the list of applications, check if there’s any suspicious file, if a keylogger is active, it should be visible in Task Manager. Disable the malicious application.
How to Detect Keyloggers Step 2 – Programs and Features
In Programs and Features, you will see the list of applications you installed on the computer. If an application appears suspicious with an unverified publisher, you can Google it. If it is unnecessary, uninstall it. It could have been installed without your knowledge.
How to Detect Keyloggers Step no. 3 – Full Malware Scan
If you want to ensure your protection from keyloggers, do a full malware scan on the PC. Look for a reputable anti malware software. It will scan the computer for malware. The threats detected will be displayed when the malware scanning process is finished. Just click remove and exit. That’s how to detect keyloggers fast and easy.
Basic detection methods
When commercial programs are used, such as parental controls, they are often detectable by searching through the installed apps or programs on the device. If found, the removal of the tracking program is generally all that’s needed to ensure that no keystrokes will be recorded from then on.
If you do find such a program, you may want to look at any logs that have been created before you remove the program so you’ll know what information has been gathered by it.
Another simple thing to check is for a small hardware device connected between the end of the keyboard cable and the keyboard input on the computer.
If your computer seems to lag when you are typing things, it could be an indication of a keylogger, although many other scenarios can contribute to this symptom as well. In any case, determining why your computer is lagging is a good idea.
Advanced detection methods
If you’re technically inclined with Windows, you can examine running processes via the Task Manager to search for extra instances of “winlogon.exe” or other unusual “.exe” processes that are running. You’ll also want to check all the startup entries for anything unusual.
Advanced Mac users can use the Activity Monitor in Utilities to examine running processes for anything suspicious as well.
You’ll also want to check your security software to make sure that a strange program has not been added to the “exceptions” list in your program’s settings.
SECURITY MEASURES AGAINST KEYLOGER ATTACK
Protecting against keyloggers covers a fairly standard security spectrum. That is, your online and personal digital security needs this level of protection on a day-to-day basis. There’s a lot more than just keyloggers out there.
1. Use a Firewall
In most instances, the keylogger has to transmit its information back to the attacker for it to do any harm. The keylogger must send data out from your computer via the internet. As your internet passes through a firewall (for instance, Windows Firewall is a default security setting for Windows 10 systems), there’s a chance it will realize something isn’t quite right.Advertisement
That said, there’s also a stronger chance it won’t detect an issue. An easily terminated keylogger isn’t much use to the attacker. The Windows Firewall is an excellent option for most users, but several excellent third-party firewall options come with extensive functionality. U
A firewall alone might not stop a keylogger or its associated malware, but it is better to have one than not.
2. Install a Password Manager
One constant piece of security advice is to update and change your passwords (along with using a strong single-use password to begin with). But, let’s face it: it’s really hard to remember tens of 16-character passwords for the staggering number of sites most of us use. Keyloggers are effective in their simplicity; it copies the keystrokes and logs the information. But what if you never actually typed a password?
Most password managers use autofill functionality to provide a master password that unlocks a specific account. Your password still works, you’re already browsing your Twitter feed, and all without typing. Sounds great, right?Advertisement
Unfortunately, a password manager can only get you so far, for a few reasons.
- Some password managers don’t copy and paste your password. Instead, they use an auto-type function to input the password. Any keylogger worth its salt will copy virtual keystrokes, too. But…
- …A sufficiently well-designed keylogger will also periodically take screenshots as well as record the contents of the clipboard.
- Some dangerous advanced malware variants will target offline password databases, stealing the entire list rather than one at a time.
Now, all is not lost. For example, KeePass negates the first and second issue using Two-Channel Auto-Type Obfuscation (TCATO). TCATO basically splits the password down into two subparts, sends both to the clipboard, then merges in the password field. However, by their admission, TCATO isn’t 100% secure, “it is theoretically possible to write a dedicated spy application that specializes on logging obfuscated auto-type.”
The point of a password manager wasn’t to stop keylogging. However, if you do encounter a keylogger and you have a password manager installed, there’s a chance you only lose the strong single-use password for one account, rather than every password for every account you own.
3. Update Your System (And Keep It That Way)
Being proactive about system security is always a good idea. One of the most important parts of a proactive defense is keeping your system up to date. That includes your operating system as well as the applications and programs you run on it. Keyloggers and other malware look for exploits in outdated software and can take advantage of them, sometimes without you knowing anything is wrong.
Change Your Passwords Frequently
If you suspect something is wrong, use a different computer to change your passwords. The measures listed above should provide ample protection against keyloggers, but there always seems to be people who have their passwords stolen even though they did everything right.
Frequently changing your passwords will help minimize the potential damage of a keylogging attack. Your password may be stolen, but it would be uncommon for it to be stolen and used immediately unless that keylogger was targeted directly at you (in which case you may have bigger problems than keylogging!). If you change your password every two weeks, your stolen information will no longer be useful.
5 Methods to Prevent Keylogging Attacks
Method no. 1 – Use a 2-Step Verification
Using 2-Step verification helps prevent keylogging attacks. It requires entering a pin code sent to a mobile phone via text to verify identity. It prevents hackers from accessing your account even if he is able to steal your username and password through a keylogger.
If you want to secure your account from unauthorized access, enable a 2-Step verification. When someone tries to access your account without your permission, you’ll get notified immediately. That’s the primary step on how to prevent keylogging attacks.
Method no. 2 – Install Software Updates
Installing Software updates patches vulnerabilities on the computer. Thus, prevents exploit kits from injecting keyloggers. It addresses the existing issues on the computer that hackers can exploit. It also installs new features on the application, making them more efficient.
Also, remember to install the latest updates for your browsers too. Hackers also exploit outdated plug-ins and add-ons. If you want to keep your computer security tight, install software updates. Installing software updates is another effective method for how to prevent keylogging attacks.
Method no. 3 – Use Key Encryption Software
Key encryption software encrypt the keys you press on the keyboard to prevent keyloggers from capturing the exact keys. They conceal the keystrokes as they reach the application. So keylogger will only be able to log the characters used to encrypt the sensitive information. If you want to add another layer of security against keyloggers, use key encryption software.
Method no. 4 – Avoid Downloading Crack Software
Refusing to download crack software also prevents keyloggers from infecting the computer. Crack software is often infected with malware. They are free, but they could be unsafe for your computer. You may inadvertently install a keylogger disguised as computer software.
If you want to keep your computer malware free, avoid downloading crack software. Download trusted applications only. That’s another good way on how to prevent keylogging attacks.
Method no. 5 – Install Anti Malware Program
Anti Malware software protects you from varieties of malware such as keyloggers, ransomware, rootkit, and trojans. It scans the files that enter the computer, thus detects and prevents fake software. It also regularly scans the computer for malware to keep the hard drive malware free.
Anti malware software also protects your keyboard from direct access. So it prevents any malicious software from gaining direct access to it.
Those are some effective methods on how to prevent keylogging attacks.
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