Separate Anti-Keylogging Protection: Who Needs it Most?

If there still are few unprotected computers left, I haven't seen any. Every emerging threat causes means of defense to appear. Anti-viruses and firewalls were the first. Now most computers have also an anti-spy program installed. More and more often experts say that some computers need autonomous anti-keylogging protection as well.

Or do they? Isn't a separate anti-keylogger on a PC a little too much? Can a user do without it--why so much attention to a particular type of what is usually called spyware? Well, the threat is extremely serious, that's why.

Information is not a liquid, but, unfortunately, it tends to leak quite the same way. First something trickles out, then?Whole businesses may be washed away in no time; and the damage which data leak cause to state and government institutions can be terrifying. Data leakage is in a way comparable with a break of a dam, with one clear-cut distinction that makes all the difference. There is also another factor- information value. A tiny drop of information, if lost, is likely to cause irretrievable damage.

Money losses due to online fraud are only the tip of an iceberg. There may be irremediable mischief that can never be repaid. It happens when confidential information people have to consign to authorities is stolen. Information having to do with people's health, work, education, families, can be pinched, not out of simple curiosity, of course. Addresses and phone numbers, school and university records, tests results, police records, health records, insurances, tax records, voters lists and so long and so forth--all these contain bits of information that if made public can probably do harm to people mentioned there.

How simple and cheap it is now to get hold of spy software! Scores of various spy programs are available online, and many of them are free. Just imagine that they are within a mouse click from anyone - and do thank God if it is only some suspicious spouse.

Of course, there are means of defense. Loads of programs are specially created to counteract spy software, and they are also available online. Why data stealing is flourishing then? The problem is that the "means of defense" are, as it often happens, half a step behind "means of offense". Signature bases which all the anti-spy software depend on, are made up using clips of spy programs' codes; if a base doesn't contain the "autograph" of some spy program or virus, users are helpless against it. And what if the spy software is brand-new? What if it is tailor-made for one particular computer or network (not yours, if you are lucky enough) to be used only once? What if a respectable program for monitoring is used for spy purposes?

So, even if your PC does have some anti-monitoring or anti-spy software with a signature base, your PC may be being scanned right now anyway.

One useful tip: When reading an article where some term (for example, "spyware") is used often, make sure the author and you mean the same. There is quite a mess in definitions when it comes to types of software. Not surprisingly for those who still remember English lessons at school, every noun ending with "ware" is a mixture of objects having something in common--usually used for similar purposes. So it tends to be when "ware" is short for "software". Sometimes it's pretty tricky to define exactly what software it includes.

If software collects information without users' knowledge and transmits it, such a program is usually automatically labeled "spyware" no matter how valuable this information is. Well, let's use common sense. If spyware is a mixture of different software products based on different principles, it's unlikely that there can be one solution that could work against all of them. Absolute protection is a pie in the sky.

What kind of spyware is the most dangerous? Not just annoying, like most adware, but really dangerous? There is particular kind of software specially created for stealing information. One of the most effective ways of stealing information from a PC is capturing keystrokes. It would not be out of place to know the enemy better. Well, here they are:

Keylogging Programs (keyloggers, key loggers, keystroke loggers, key recorders, key trappers, key capture programs, etc.) belong to the group of tools that monitor PC activity. A small, fairly simple program (a programmer can write a plain one in a couple of days) captures everything the user is doing ? keystrokes, mouse clicks, files opened and closed, sites visited. A little more sophisticated programs of this kind also capture text from windows and make screenshots (record everything displayed on the screen) ? so the information is captured even if the user doesn't type anything, just opens the views the file.

Software products of this type were initially designed solely for recording keystroke information including the system keys, to the special log file to be analyzed by the person who installed this program. Log files can be sent within the network to the shared place, to the ftp server in the Internet, by e-mail etc. These new software products have many additional functions - they intercept information from windows, capture mouse clicks, make snapshots of the screen and active windows, record all received and sent emails, monitor file activity, monitor system register, monitor the printer queue, intercept sound from the microphone and video pictures from the web-camera connected to the computer, etc.

Keyloggers can be included into freeware, shareware, and even into commercial programs. Trojan programs, viruses and Internet worms pretty often contain keyloggers, too. That is why it is so important to apply special anti-keylogging protection.

Who needs separate anti-keylogging protection? We can easily deduce the answer:

Everybody whose data are really valuable and who will suffer great losses if they are stolen.

Everybody who deals with other people's confidential information.

Everybody whose work requires keeping information in secrecy.

And anybody else, who simply doesn't like the idea of his or her information (even if it isn't a top secret) leaking anywhere.

Alexandra Gamanenko currently works at the Raytown Corporation, LLC -- an independent software developing company. visit its website at:

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