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What is keylogger and the differences between software and hardware keylogger



Simply put, keylogger is a piece of software program that can silently record every keystroke made on a computer without any notice of the computer user. All keyboard activities can be captured in stealth mode with no chance of detection.

Keystroke logging can be useful. For example, it can be used to determine sources of error in computer systems. It can be used for the purpose of law enforcement, etc.

Keylogger can be categorized into two main categories: software based keylogger and hardware based keylogger.

Software based keylogger is normally installed on your hard drive by a hacker. It is a kind of spyware that many of us talking about these days. Sometimes it may also be installed by a person who wants to monitor the use of his/her own computer. For example, a mom can download a software keylogger from the Internet and install it to monitor her children's Internet activities. A wife could install a software keylogger to monitor the husband's online conversations such as instant messaging, emails, and chat rooms. Once such professional keylogger is Invisible Keylogger.

The problem with software keylogger is that it can be detected and removed by anti-spyware tools such as Spybot Search & Destroy.

To bypass the check by spyware removal tools, often times people resort to hardware keylogger. Hardware keylogger is made up of a tiny memory chip embedded in a device that can be as small as 4cm long. This device can be easily attached to computer keyboard plug (PS/2 keyboard only, not USB keyboard. See pictures below). Keystroke information is stored in a tiny memory chip in the hardware keylogger that can be browsed by using special programs that usually come with the hardware keylogger package.

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Hardware keyloggers are often used by companies (such as banks on money transfer terminals) to keep track of what employees do on their computers. Detection of hardware keylogger by using anti-spyware is impossible. So it becomes difficult for uneducated people to notice the existence of hardware keylogger if they don't have the knowledge of what hardware keylogger is, where it is normally installed, and how it looks like.

True stealthy, undetectable hardware keylogger is custom made. There are manufacturers of hardware keylogger chips. They embed these chips into normal keyboards and sell them on demand. Because these keyboards look no differences to normal keyboards, there is no way anyone can spot its existence with ease. The privacy intrusion is really scary.

Keyloggers are two-edged swords. They can be used for good and bad, depending on how people use them and what the purpose is. Equipping yourself with knowledge about keyloggers is the best way to stop the bad and utilize it for the good.


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