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Secure Data Protection

How Keyloggers Capture and Use Stolen Credentials

June 13, 2022

6 minutes

Contributed by Edward Schmitt, Cybersecurity Analyst, DOT Security.

Most people don’t realize that even with the protections provided by website to protect our usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information, they still have to be typed. And cybercriminals know this, that’s why keyloggers are such a frequent and dangerous threat as they track your every move.

What is Keylogger?

A keylogger is a software application or tool that logs keyboard strokes on a digital device. Keyloggers can appear innocuous but don’t be fooled, this is fundamental to their functionality. They don't want to draw attention to themselves because they are a powerful instrument for cybercriminals to pilfer very valuable and sensitive information.

Who Do Keyloggers Target?

Keyloggers are especially dangerous to victims if they don’t understand the sensitivity of their data input through keystrokes on their keyboards. This sensitive data can be logged and sent to malicious actors for further analysis.

Keyloggers present a significant danger to anyone who uses a digital device since it is incredibly common these days to input passwords and other confidential details entered through keyboard input.

Furthermore, today’s keyboard loggers are advanced enough to log other data that does not require keyboard input including clipboard and screenshot logging, control text capture (which allows for the capture of a password if it is being protected by a password mask such as asterisk marks that replace password characters on a website), process tracking which allows the capture of folders, applications, and windows that open, as well as a breadth of internet activity tracking capabilities.

Keyloggers are not bound to only computers. Many keyloggers are known to have been distributed to mobile phones and mobile devices. Cybercriminals have been developing trojans for mobile devices in the form of games and applications that can end up on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Uses of Keyloggers by Cybercriminals

When using a PIN to access accounts, passwords to access websites, email usernames and passwords, and other sensitive knowledge, there is always the possibility for infringement on private data by cybercriminals looking to take advantage of new and old vulnerabilities within websites and web browsers.

If cybercriminals have direct access to privately-owned and confidential information, they will use the collected information to conduct illegal activity, such as making purchases online, under a compromised user account.

Keyloggers are often used to spy on data from private enterprises and compromised individuals. When visiting a fraudulent or malicious website, keyloggers can be automatically downloaded and installed onto a computer. Cybercriminals can do this by executing a script from the compromised website that will then target the web browser for unpatched exploits. Once exploited, an attacker can then download and install malware like keyloggers to monitor keystrokes and other activity on the device.

There are several other ways that keyloggers can end up on a device, such as phishing or being bundled alongside other malware such as trojans, viruses, and worms.

Protecting Businesses from Keylogger Attacks

Keeping your organization and yourself safe from keyloggers and other malware is crucial in today’s digital world. With identity theft, data theft, and cybercrime all at all-time highs, it is essential to arm yourself and others with the knowledge of how to protect against keyloggers.

Security Strategies to Protect Against Keyloggers

Recommended strategies for increased protection include:

  • Hardening public-facing systems and blocking unneeded USB ports to prevent hardware keyloggers from being exploited

  • Deploying anti-virus products to the device that can identify and distinguish software keyloggers and maintaining updates to ensure anti-virus products are operating at full capacity

  • Maintaining software updates to the operating systems and web browsers

  • Avoiding the use of any publicly available internet-enabled devices to access private websites or services which involve using a password to proceed

  • Employing multi-factor authentication on all password-protected accounts wherever applicable to supplement an additional layer of security in the event a password is compromised by a keylogger

In Conclusion

Protecting yourself from malware like keyloggers means keeping it from entering your system in the first place and having strong security standards set to secure all the entrances of your network.

Is your business adequately protected from malware like keyloggers? Use this checklist to see just how covered your business is from modern cyberattacks and discover what you still need to be completely secure.