What is Keylogging: Beginner’s Guide


Did you know that cybercriminals could monitor you through the keyboard? Or that they could hack the system camera? Or eavesdrop on your conversation through the phone’s mic? Welcome to the world of keyloggers, a type of deceptive spyware that records and steals sensitive information that the user enters on a device. 

Keyloggers are designed for the act of keystroke logging — creating records of everything typed on a computer or mobile keyboard. These stay hidden and monitor the computer activity while a user operates the devices as usual. Keyloggers can be used for authorized purposes like feedback for software development, but it can be also be exploited by criminals to steal classified information.

  1. What is Keylogging?
  2. How does Keylogging Work?
  3. How to Detect Keylogging
  4. How to Prevent Keystroke Logging

1. What is Keylogging?

Keystroke logging often cited as ‘keylogging,’ is the practice of covertly recording input signals from a computer keyboard when the computer user is not aware. It is the equivalent of digital surveillance, revealing every click and touch, every download and conversation. 

Keylogging hacking is used to steal personal or financial information such as banking details, which they can then sell or use for profit. However, they also have legitimate uses within businesses to troubleshoot, improve user experience, or monitor employees. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies also use it for surveillance purposes.

Authorized programs may require a keylogging function, which can be used to call certain program functions using ‘hotkeys’ or toggle between keyboard layouts (e.g., Keyboard Ninja). There is a lot of licensed software designed to allow administrators to keep an eye on what employees do during their shifts or enable users to track third parties’ activity on their computers. However, the ethical boundary between permissible monitoring and cyberespionage is a fine line.

2. How does keylogging Work?

Keylogging working can be divided into two primary types:

  1. Keylogging Hardware
  2. Keylogging Software

Keylogging hardware, which falls into the first type, are usually small devices that can be planted to the keyboard or located within a cable or the computer itself. The second type, keylogging software, is made up of dedicated programs designed to track and log keystrokes. The data obtained by these keyloggers can be passed on to attackers via email or by uploading log data to predefined websites, databases, or FTP servers.

Unlike other types of extortionate programs, keyloggers present no threat to the system itself. Although, they can pose a serious peril to users, as they can be exploited to intercept passwords and other confidential information entered via the keyboard. As a result, cybercriminals can access PINs and account numbers for bank accounts, email addresses, user names, email passwords, and so forth.

As soon as a cybercriminal gets hold of the user’s personal or financial information, they can easily transfer money from the user’s account. Unfortunately, access to confidential data can sometimes have far more severe consequences than an individual’s loss of a few dollars. Keyloggers can be used as tools in both industrial and political surveillance, accessing data that may include proprietary commercial information and classified government material, which could compromise the security of commercial and state-owned organizations (for example, by stealing private encryption keys).

3. How to Detect Keylogging

Detecting keylogging can be tricky. Keyloggers can be hard to expose without software assistance. Malware and various potentially unwanted applications can consume a lot of the system’s reserves. Keyloggers do not always cause detectable computer problems, like slow processes or glitches.

Software keyloggers can be hard to identify and remove even by some antivirus applications. Spyware is good at concealing itself. It often resembles standard files or traffic and can also potentially reinstall itself. Keylogging malware usually resides in the computer operating system, at the keyboard API level, in memory, or deep at the kernel level itself.

Hardware keyloggers are close to impossible to catch without a physical inspection. Even security software will not be able to discover a hardware keylogging tool, and if the device manufacturer has a built-in hardware keylogger, an entirely new security solution is required to get rid of it.

4. How to Prevent Keystroke Logging

Take caution while opening attachments; keyloggers can be concealed in files received through emails, chats, P2P networks, text messages, or even social networks. Knowing how to expose a keylogger is only the first step towards security. Proactive protection is critical to keeping devices keylogger-free:

  • Always read the terms of service or any contracts before accepting.
  • Install internet security software on all the devices.
  • Make sure the security programs are updated on the latest threats. 
  • Do not leave the mobile and computer devices unsupervised.
  • Keep all other device software updated as well.
  • Do not use unfamiliar USB drives or external hard drives.


There has been a considerable increase in different kinds of felonious programs with keylogging functionality in recent years. No internet user is immune to cybercriminals, no matter where in the world they are located or the organization they work for. No matter how we approach anti-keylogger protection, the best defense is to install the right anti-spyware product that protects against keylogging malware.

In such cases, Cyber Security specialists must deem it prudent to stay vigilant with a proactive and comprehensive security system to combat even the most deadly keylogging activities. 
Jigsaw Academy, along with HackerU, offers an online 600-hour Master Certificate In Cyber Security (Red Team), ranked #1 Cyber Security Course In 2020, to help aspirants learn and become proficient in all offensive cybersecurity technologies and skills. The course provides online instructor-led classes by experienced faculty and industry experts from HackerU Israel & India, and learners are offered a joint certificate by HackerU and Jigsaw Academy post successful completion.

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