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How to Remove and Avoid Keyloggers

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/15/2011

Keyloggers can come in two different varieties - legitimate and malicious. It's the malicious ones that are a real danger to you and everything you type on your computer. Having a keylogger on your PC is like handing your house keys to a burglar.

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    By now, everyone should be aware of the dangers of blindly wading through the Internet. Viruses, malware, spyware, and other malicious entities live and grow online, just waiting for someone to get trapped in their web. While these are all causes for alarm, it's the threats that go out of their way to get your personal and financial information that are by far the worst.

    One of these is called a keylogger and getting one on your computer can spell disaster, especially if you've got confidential or financial data that you use on a regular basis. Here, we'll take a look at what a keylogger is and what to do in regards to keylogger software removal from your PC.

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    What Are Keyloggers?

    Keyloggers are programs that keep track of what's typed on a computer, basically logging the key strokes that a computer user types.Keylogging Access  They can also be used to take screen shots of activity. There are actually two types of keyloggers - legitimate and malicious. Legitimate keyloggers are those that are used by businesses or corporations to keep track of where their employees are going in terms of websites and what their habits are during the working hours.

    Legitimate keyloggers track where users go, whether they are surfing the Internet or chatting on Facebook when they should be working on that project that's due in a week. Parents can also use these keyloggers to track where their children go online and what they might be searching for online, sort of like parental controls for their online activity.

    It is the malicious keyloggers that you should worry about - these types can be used to gleam personal information, such as usernames and passwords to your online accounts. Once in the hands of hackers or thieves, they can gain access to your accounts, like your bank information. During the height of Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMO, a keylogger program was able to gain access to member accounts, allowing thieves to not only deplete the hard earned work of players, but their credit card information.

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    Detecting a Keylogger

    Knowing what a keylogger is and what it can do, how do you go about detecting one? The easiest way is to go with your first initial instincts. If you see an unknown program that has suddenly appeared on your desktop or a program is running in your task manager that you've never seen before, you should investigate.

    Luckily, most antivirus programs will have the most common keylogger signatures within their databases. In order for your antivirus program to detect it, you need to keep it updated; while you can manually do this, most often automatic updates are set by default so that the program is updated whenever the databases are.

    While most antivirus programs should be able to detect a keylogging program, there is always the case that a new or custom keylogger might have found its way onto your computer. In this case, you can use other third party programs to search and find it. Ad-Aware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware are good secondary programs that you can download and use in order to find a keylogger.

    If you're technically advanced, you can go keylogger hunting yourself by checking your registry and seeing if there have been any changes or if new programs have been added without your knowledge. You should only do this if you feel comfortable working within the registry of your operating system, as your system can become unstable if you remove things that shouldn't be removed.

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    Getting Rid of a Keylogger

    Fortunately, getting rid of a keylogger is best left up to your security software. Most antivirus programs will have features that include the discovery and removal of key logging programs, but you should always make sure you have a defense when it comes to ridding your PC of threats:

    1. Run your antivirus program on a full scan. Most have different options, such as a quick, full, or custom scan. While full scans take longer to complete, it's in your best interest to make sure your computer is clean of infection.
    2. Don't stop with just the virus scan. When your antivirus has finished scanning, you should also run additional scans with an antimalware or antispyware program. A popular program is that of Malwarebytes, but you can also use Ad-Aware or Spybot. This just makes sure that what your antivirus didn't find will be caught with one of these programs.

    In case you find a keylogger on your system and are able to remove it:

    1. Change your passwords immediately, and make a habit of changing them on a regular basis. Most businesses and companies require this from their employees and while it might be a headache, it keeps hackers and thieves from trying to guess what your password might be. Also, don't use the same password for multiple programs. While easier, once one site has been compromised, all of your sites have been. The best way is to utilize password managers like browser add-ons that keep track of passwords, as well as generating new passwords and keeping them safe.
    2. If your computer has been compromised and you can't immediately remove the keylogger, use another computer to change the passwords to your accounts. Make sure you don't do this on a public computer (like at the library); a laptop or even a tablet or smartphone can be useful in doing this.
    3. Contact your banking or financial institution if you think you've been a victim, even if your account appears unchanged. Fraudulent transactions could be pending.

    Always be wary of attachments or links that come through in your email or popular social network sites. Never click on them unless you trust the source. If in doubt, use your mouse to hover over the link to verify the address or use a new browser window to view the site.

    The best ways to prevent becoming a victim of a keylogger is to make sure that you keep your operating system and antivirus program up to date, as well as limiting the access that friends and family have on our computer. If you have a shared computer, having an account for each person and limiting the things they can do (such as download programs) can help in making sure that your computer and files are safe.

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    References

    Remove Keyloggers from Dedicated to Spyware, http://www.2-spyware.com/keyloggers-removal

    How to Find and Fight Keyloggers from Windows Skills, http://wskills.blogspot.com/2007/01/how-to-find-fight-keyloggers.html

    Image Credit: Free Digital Photos/Salvatore Vuono