Beware Malicious Keyloggers

Published on February 3, 2010 by in All Articles, Investing

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Cybercrime is endemic and whilst most people now know not to respond to emails asking for personal information or passwords few are aware of the dangers of “keyloggers”.

What is a keylogger?

A keylogger is a small piece of software which captures all of the keystrokes you make on your keyboard. Originally these programs were designed for legitimate monitoring purposes. For example to enable parents to track their children’s computer usage. Indeed such software is still legitimately used today.

However, it didn’t take long for criminals to see the potential of this technology; malicious keyloggers first began to appear in the early 1990s. Using a secretly installed keylogger a criminal can see your passwords, bank account information, credit card numbers, personal email and instant messaging conversations.

The software simply records all the keystrokes you make as you type, and saves them into a small file that is then silently sent to an email address, web site or waiting server. A hacker can then sift through the data, pull out all the private information they need to access your financial accounts and begin the theft.
 
Where do keyloggers come from?

The most common way for a keylogger to get onto your computer is via email, instant messaging, or social networking sites. The cyber crooks send attachments or links that, if clicked, install the keylogger. They can also be dropped by a Trojan program which typically gets onto your computer when you download digital content from peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

Another common source of keylogger infections are peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks. These networks allow users to share their own digital content and download the content of others, but unfortunately hackers often use P2P networks to “share” keyloggers and other malware that appear to be useful but in reality are very dangerous.

How to protect yourself

  • Think before you click. Many keyloggers are sent through email, social networking postings and instant messages. And the more sophisticated criminals know better than to use an unknown name—often these malicious messages will arrive under the guise of someone you know. Avoid the temptation to be “click happy”: think before you click and if anything looks strange, check with your contact to make sure they sent it to you.
  • Be suspicious of peer-to-peer sites. There are dozens of file-sharing networks out there that offer free access to files. And every one of them is full of keyloggers, viruses and every other form of malware that exists. Either avoid these sites or use them with caution: you’re not getting something for free if your bank account ends up getting wiped out.
  • Use anti-malware software as well as a virus-checking program. Even with the most diligent preventative measures, malware can still find its way onto your computer. Install and run anti-malware software and turn on the program’s “real-time” feature: this will detect and block a keylogger from sending information from your computer and tell you where it is.

Personally I use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software which is free and which can be downloaded here  but there are others. Just Google Anti-Malware and see what people say about different programs.

See Also

Financial Scams

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