How to Protect Yourself Against Keyloggers by Saumya Sinha

Keyloggers are one of the most well known and feared security threats on computers today. They're feared because they are generally hard to detect, and because the damage they do is often meant to extend beyond the infected computer. Keyloggers are usually programs, specifically spyware programs, installed in your PC through internet. You may have downloaded a file from torrent, and away from your realization and notification, they get installed in your system.

However, the question is, are Key loggers harmful? These programs record every stroke that is made over the keyboard of a computer, where it has been installed. So, it is now easy to gain the data like passwords, usernames, bank details, credit card number and other such data from the computer. Now, the question is how do these keyloggers get installed on your computer?

As said earlier, keyloggers can get downloaded, if you download a file especially with torrent clients. Moreover, the social networking sites are one of the easiest and regular targets of malware developers, like the keylogger, and you can easily get into the trap set by these sites. One of your friends, who may or may not be a victim of keylogger attack, sends you a link over the social networking site. As you trust your friend, you will simply click on the link, and bingo! The keylogger gets installed.

There are cases where public computers like libraries and other such places have been attacked by the keyloggers and the data of the users of those computers have been stolen and used for various purposes. One of the chief purposes of stealing your personal data is for financial transactions.

There are many ways to protect against keyloggers, however, and ensure that you don't become a victim of identity theft or must deal with any lesser hassle, like a hijacked World of Warcraft account. While no defense is perfect, these steps improve your chances.

1. Use A Firewall

In most instances, a keylogger has to transmit its information to a third party in order for it to do any harm. This means sending information out of your computer via the Internet. Although a very close examination of your network usage might reveal a keylogger, you can't count on that as a means of monitoring for them. The bandwidth taken up by recorded keystrokes is virtually undetectable in a broadband world.

A firewall is a great defense against keyloggers because it will monitor your computer's activity more closely than you ever could. Upon detecting that a program is attempting to send data out, the firewall will ask for permission or display a warning. Some firewall software, such as ZoneAlarm, provides you with the option of shutting down all inbound and outbound data completely. The use of a firewall can't guarantee protection, but it's an important line of defense that should catch most threats.

2. Install A Password Manager

Keyloggers work well because they're simple. They just take raw information - keystrokes - and ship them out of your computer to a third party. The information they send doesn't have to take up much bandwidth, and it can be logged quickly without any apparent performance impact on the target PC. Most users infected with a keylogger will never know it unless an account or credit card is hijacked.

One weakness of keyloggers, however, is the fact that you can't keylog what isn't typed. That's where automatic form filling becomes useful. If a password is filled in automatically by your PC, without any keystrokes, the password will only be susceptible to keyloggers the very first time you type it.

All the major web browsers have this feature baked in and will ask to store your password information the first time you type it. Some computers ship with software that offers this functionality throughout the entire operating system.

3. Keep Your Software Updated

Being proactive about your computer's security is always a good idea, and the most important part of a proactive defense is keeping software updated. Keyloggers, like most variants of modern malware, can exploit software vulnerabilities to inject themselves into your system without you, and in some cases your antivirus, being any the wiser. Adobe Flash, for example, has had issues with remote code execution exploits in the past. A malicious website could use such an exploit to install a keylogger on your PC.

Exploits are being found in software all of the time. Even Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are routinely patched to take care of critical exploits. If you don't update your system you will be leaving it open to all sorts of attacks that could otherwise have been avoided. Yes, making sure all of your software is up to date can be a pain, but consider the alternative. This is an easy, proactive remedy that will stop most attacks before they can start.

4. Change Your Passwords Frequently

For most users, the measures above will provide enough protection to ward off any keylogger woes, but there always seems to be people who have their passwords stolen even though they did everything right.

This probably is the fault of exploits that have yet to be identified or patched, and it can also sometimes occur because of social engineering - it's not unheard of for a Twitter account to be hacked and begin tweeting out links to malicious sites and files. Every smart geek is vigilant, but nobody is perfect.

Changing your passwords frequently will help minimize the potential damage of a keylogging attack. Your password may be stolen, but it would be uncommon for it to be stolen and used immediately, unless that keylogger was targeted directly at you (in which case you may have bigger problems than keylogging!). If you change your password every two weeks, your stolen information will no longer be useful.

5. User-education

User education goes a long way toward the prevention of keyloggers and other spyware. For example - creating a policy of only downloading software and applications from trusted sources will go a long way toward minimizing risk.

Also, if possible - find a web-based software solution that lets you avoid downloading and installing unnecessary programs or software from companies you aren't certain you can trust.

6. Use a virtual machine

Using a virtual machine or virtual operating system allows you to install software that might be suspect in a virtual area of your computer to separate them, and the threat of a keylogger, from the trusted parts of your computer.

When installed and configured properly, the closed environment offered by a virtual machine keeps threats completely separate from your main, and protected, operating system.

7. Using the on-screen keyboard to type sensitive information

One of the limitations of keyloggers is that they only capture certain information. One of the things they do not capture are clicks made on Windows' on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard isn't very well-known by the majority of Windows users, but it can be a great way to make sure sensitive account numbers and passwords are not captured.

Yes, the process of clicking passwords and account numbers takes time, and you probably don't want to use the on-screen keyboard for everything, but it's certainly an option that can be used as part of a comprehensive approach. It can also be used when you are on someone else's computer and aren't certain of its security.

8. Use Sandboxie

Sandboxie is another great program to help you protect your computer against harmful keyloggers and spywares. Sandboxie runs your computer in an isolated space which prevents your program from making permanent changes to other programs in your computer. When ever you receive a file that looks suspicious, just run the program with Sandboxie so that, you can test it without the risk of making permanent changes to your computer.

To run a program in Sandboxie, follow the steps as mentioned below:

Open the Sandboxie tool and click on sandbox menu on the top.
Now go to Default sandbox.
Then click on run any program.
Now select the file you wish to run in sandboxie and click open.

9. Keyscrambler

Keyscrambler is one of the best program that offers protection against keyloggers. It is a small program which encrypts your keystrokes so that, even if your computer has a keylogger installed on it, only the encrypted keystrokes are captured by the keylogger and not the actual ones.

The free version of Keyscrambler currently supports Firefox, IE and a few other applications. However its premium version supports more than 160 applications

10. Cover your webcam

There are many computer viruses are developed in the form of keylogger that can spy on you so here best option is to cover up your webcam to secure yourself from these types of attacks. You can cover it with any bandage or a color tape or whatever you wish.

These methods will help protect against keyloggers by decreasing their opportunity to infect your PC and decreasing the information they can steal if one does happen to be installed. Although you can never protect yourself 100%, taking these steps will decrease your risk.

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