How does identity theft happen? One keystroke at a time.
Here at IdentityForce, we’re always getting asked security-related questions. One of the more common ones is, “what is a keylogger and do I need keylogger protection?”
A keylogger refers to a piece of hardware or software that records or “logs” everything you type. While a hardware keylogger would require that someone have physical access to your computer, a software keylogger can make its way onto your computer without your knowledge — usually by clicking on the wrong links in an email or visiting malware-laden websites.
Consider the impact of someone looking through a log of everything that you’ve typed on your computer. All of your activity is tracked – from shopping and dating websites, even your banking activity can be captured! A criminal would gain access to your username and password combinations, account access details and transaction histories.
With that information, a thief could pose as you for identity theft, like opening accounts in your name or transferring money without your knowledge. Then, the thief might target your friends and family by embedding malicious code in messages to them — after all, he has the information needed to log onto your email account.
Lower Your Risk
Even though keyloggers present a very real risk, there are ways to lower your chances of exposure and to protect yourself against keylogging. Here are some tips:
- Be wary of links in emails. Thanks to more sophisticated hacking attempts, fake emails now look more official than the scams in years past. But don’t be fooled by the lack of spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Unless you know the email sender, don’t open the email or click on links. If it seems to come from a legitimate company, navigate to their website rather than through a link received via email.
- Know your app maker. Keyloggers are easily slipped into “free” games and apps, so that once you download the software, the keylogger begins working in the background. It’s always a good idea to research your apps before downloading them, especially if you’re selecting apps for your kids.
- Don’t assume you’re safe at work. Although corporate computing environments often have numerous security controls in place, that doesn’t mean you can’t accidentally introduce a keylogger into the system. Just a few years ago, keyloggers hit some large companies, including Sony, Lockheed Martin and Hartford Insurance. Use the same high level of caution when opening emails and downloading apps at work as you do at home. Also, some companies use keylogging to track employee productivity, so it’s a good idea to refrain from using a work computer for personal tasks, especially private emails.
- Be alert to system changes. Often, when malicious software like keyloggers are running underneath your other programs, there can be noticeable changes to performance. That might mean slower download speeds, webpages don’t load as quickly or spam filters don’t seem to work as well as usual. If this happens, immediately stop any communication or online transactions and run a virus and malware scan, then remove any questionable programs that might be installed.
Another strategy to help protect your information from identity theft is a service like DeleteNowTM, which scans the Internet with a focus on public records sites, and gives you a detailed report on information that has been made public. It also guides you on how to remove this information. Register for DeleteNow today and take control of your personal information.
Image courtesy of Flickr user ilouque.