What is a Keylogger?

What is a keylogger?

There are many different keyloggers, and they all have different characteristics:

A keylogger can be a software program [software keylogger]; or it may be a small hardware attachment to a keyboard [hardware keylogger].

The software keyloggers can be installed to ‘listen’ to your activities, even before Windows does [rootkits or kernel-level keyloggers]; or they can be installed to hear Windows events [hook-based keyloggers]; or they can continuously poll Windows to see if a key/mouse is being used [key state keyloggers].

The keyloggers may have extra abilities, such as the ability to: take screenshots (regularly or on every mouse-click), to monitor the clipboard (and save off anything that you copy or paste).  Some are even able to ‘ask’ Windows for the text within a passworded input box (something that Neo’s SafeKeys protects against).

Keyloggers often run in a type of ‘stealth’ mode.  They rarely shout to the users saying “Hey you!  I’m recording everything you type!”.  They usually don’t sit in the systems tray or keep a window open.  They also try to hide their program from the task menu and hide within Windows system files.

Keyloggers often store or send your data, for covert retrieval by others.  Some store and hide log files and screen captures.  Others email or ftp these files to remote receivers…usually without your knowledge.

If you want to know more, you may wish to read the Wikipedia article on keyloggers.