What is a Key Logger
A Key Logger is a type of malicious software, that is designed to record or monitor all the keys pressed on a specific computer. Malicious hackers create and install this software on the victims computer, by using phishing techniques. Once this malicious software is installed on the victims computer, it captures every key typed on the victims computer, which may also include passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
Key Logger is also known as Keystroke Logger. Key Loggers are not only used for malicious activities, there are many situations where keyloggers are used in ethical ways. Like:
- Parental Monitoring:- Parents can install Key Logger on their children’s phone or computer, in order to ensure their safety and protecting them from online threats.
- Employee Monitoring:- Employers can use keyloggers on their company-owned devices to monitor employee activities and protect their organizations data.
- Law Enforcement Investigations:- Keyloggers can also be used by law enforcement agencies, in order to gather evidences during any criminal investigations.
Types of Key Loggers
There are several types of key loggers that includes:
- Software-based Keyloggers:- This type of keylogger is a software program, that is installed on the victim’s computer by various means. Software-based keyloggers store every single key that is pressed on the victim’s computer, and sends them to the server.
- Hardware-based Keyloggers:- A Hardware-based Keylogger is a physical device that is placed in line with keyboard’s connection cable. This type of keylogger records keystrokes as they pass through the device.
- Memory-based Keyloggers:- A Memory-based keylogger takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the computer’s memory to capture keystrokes. It targets specific processes or applications and intercept the keystrokes before they are encrypted or transmitted.
- Acoustic Keyloggers:- An Acoustic keylogger detects keystrokes by analyzing the sound produced when a key is pressed. They use sensitive microphones or audio sensors to capture and interpret the unique acoustic signatures of each keystroke.
Out of these four types of Key Loggers, Software-based Keyloggers is the most popular among attackers.
How Key Logger Works
All types of keyloggers captures every single keystroke that is pressed by an individual on their computer system. Below is a step by step overview of how a keylogger actually works:
- Installation:- As discussed earlier there are mainly two types of Keyloggers Software-based and Physical hardware keyloggers. Software-based keyloggers are installed on the victim’s computer system by various means, (Phishing techniques). Hardware keyloggers are connected between the keyboard and the computer.
- Keystroke Capture:- Once the Keylogger is installed on the victim’s device, then it actively monitors and captures all keystrokes pressed by the victim. This includes keystrokes from the keyboard, virtual keyboards, or on-screen keyboards.
- Data Storage:- Then the captured keystrokes are stored in a log file or memory buffer, which can be located either locally on the device or remotely on a server.
- Transmission:- If the keylogger is software-based, it will automatically transmit the captured keystrokes to a remote server. Hardware-based keyloggers may require physical access to retrieve the recorded data.
How to Detect and Remove a Keylogger
It is extremely tough to detect a keylogger on your system, as most of the keyloggers are undetectable. However, here are some methods that you can follow to detect a Keylogger:
- Use Antivirus:- Keep your antivirus software always updated, and perform regular scans on your computer system. Some modern antivirus softwares (like Bitdefender) have built-in features, that will help you to detect and remove keyloggers.
- Monitor System Processes:- Use the Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac) to check for any suspicious processes, running in the background. Also look for unfamiliar names that may indicate the presence of a keylogger.
- Analyze Network Traffic:- Monitor your network traffic using network monitoring tools to identify any suspicious outgoing connections from your computer. Keyloggers often send captured data to remote servers.
- Review Installed Programs:- Regularly review the list of installed programs on your computer and uninstall any unfamiliar or suspicious application.
How to Protect Yourself From Keylogger
You can protect yourself from keyloggers, by following these methods:
- Be aware of Phishing attacks:- Be cautions of phishing attacks, learn about various tricks that attackers use to get into your system.
- Use Strong and Unique Passwords:- Create strong, complex passwords for your accounts and avoid reusing them across multiple platforms. Use a password manager, to securely store and manage your passwords.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA):- Try to Utilize two-factor authentication when possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary verification step, like a code sent to your mobile device, in addition to your password.
- Use Reliable Security Software:- Install reputable antivirus and anti-malware software on your computer and keep it always updated. Regularly scan your system for any potential threats.
- Educate Yourself:- Stay informed about the latest security threats, common attack vectors, and best practices for online safety. Regularly educate yourself on security measures to protect against these types of malicious softwares.
Operation Aurora: A Major Keylogger Attack on Tech Giants
Operation Aurora is one of the biggest keylogger attack that targeted many tech organizations. This attack, was occurred in 2009, and it targeted several major technology companies, including Google, Adobe, Juniper Networks etc.
The attackers in the Operation Aurora attack used a combination of spear-phishing emails and zero-day vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to the organizations systems. Once they get access, they deployed keyloggers to capture keystrokes and gather sensitive information such as login credentials, intellectual property, and strategic plans.
The Operation Aurora attack highlighted the sophistication and coordinated nature of advanced persistent threats (APTs). After this attack, many organizations have increased their focus on threat detection, incident response, and security measures to mitigate the risk of keylogger attacks and other APTs.
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