What is a Keylogger? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is a Keylogger? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

What is a Keylogger?

Imagine a world where every word you type is being monitored without your knowledge. Sounds like a dystopian novel, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this is a reality for many people who fall victim to keyloggers. But what is a keylogger? Keyloggers can be a silent threat lurking in the background, collecting your sensitive information and sending it to someone with malicious intent.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! This comprehensive guide will help you understand the ins and outs of keyloggers, how they work, and most importantly, how to protect yourself from them.


  • A keylogger is a tool that records keystrokes on a computer, often used by cybercriminals to capture sensitive information.

  • It can track passwords, credit card details, and personal messages, threatening privacy and security.

  • Installing reputable antivirus software, updating systems regularly, and using on-screen keyboards can help combat keyloggers.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Defining Keyloggers

So what is a keylogger? In simple terms, a keylogger is a tool that monitors and records what someone types on a device. It’s like having a digital spy, secretly observing your every keystroke. You might be wondering why someone would want to do this.

Well, keyloggers can serve both legitimate and malicious purposes. For instance, employers may use keylogging software to track employee computer activity, or parents may monitor their children’s internet usage to ensure their safety. On the darker side, malicious hackers can use keylogger malware to steal sensitive data, such as login credentials or credit card information.

With this information, they can gain unauthorized access to your accounts, leading to identity theft or financial loss. Understanding the nature of keyloggers is the first step in protecting yourself from potential threats.

Keylogger Functions

Keyloggers have a few primary functions that make them effective in capturing sensitive information. These functions include keystroke recording, password capturing, and user activity monitoring. By performing these tasks, keyloggers can collect a wealth of information about the user, enabling malicious actors to exploit this data for their own gain.

While it’s alarming to know that keyloggers can record your every keystroke, it’s important to recognize that not all keyloggers are created equal. Some are more sophisticated than others, capable of capturing additional data, such as screenshots, camera footage, or even audio from the device’s microphone.

Understanding the functions of keyloggers can help you stay vigilant and better protect your sensitive information.

Keystroke Recording

The primary function of a keylogger is to record every keystroke made on a device. This can include anything from your login credentials to the contents of private messages. Keystroke recording allows keyloggers to collect a vast amount of information about the user, which can be exploited by malicious actors.

Different types of keyloggers, such as software and hardware keyloggers, record keystrokes in different ways. Software keyloggers, for example, capture screen presses or taps, allowing the hacker to see which virtual buttons were pressed while the user is typing. Regardless of the method, the end goal is the same: to collect as much information as possible about the user’s keystrokes.

Password Capturing

In addition to recording keystrokes, keyloggers can also capture passwords, one of the most sought-after pieces of information for malicious hackers. By recording every keystroke made on a device, keyloggers can easily identify and store sensitive password information. This information can then be used to gain unauthorized access to various accounts, leading to identity theft or financial loss.

To protect yourself from password capturing, it’s essential to use strong, unique passwords for each account and consider using a password manager to store them securely. Additionally, using a virtual keyboard or other security measures can help prevent keyloggers from capturing your passwords.

User Activity Monitoring

Keyloggers can also monitor user activity on a device, providing even more insight into the user’s behavior and actions. This can include monitoring web browsing history, capturing screenshots, and even recording audio or video from the device’s microphone or camera.

By monitoring user activity, keyloggers can collect a wealth of information about the user, enabling malicious actors to exploit this data for their own gain. Understanding the extent to which keyloggers can track user behavior can help you stay vigilant and better protect your sensitive information.

Types of Keyloggers

Now that you have an understanding of what keyloggers are and their functions, let’s dive into the different types of keyloggers. There are three main types: software, hardware, and acoustic keyloggers. Each type has its unique characteristics and methods of operation, making them suited for different situations and targets.

Knowing the differences between these types of keyloggers can help you better understand the threats they pose and how to protect yourself from them. In the following sections, we’ll explore each type in more detail, providing you with the knowledge needed to stay one step ahead of potential keylogger threats.

Software Keyloggers

Software keyloggers are computer programs that get installed in a system. They record all the keystrokes made on the computer’s keyboard. These keyloggers can be classified into several subtypes, including kernel-level, user mode, rootkit, and wireless keylogger sniffers. Each subtype operates differently, with some tapping into the operating system, while others monitor information sent by application programming interfaces (APIs) or hide themselves from detection.

Software keyloggers can be challenging to detect and remove, as they often disguise themselves as legitimate programs or blend into normal system processes. However, using anti-keylogger software or other security measures can help protect against software keylogger threats.

Hardware Keyloggers

Hardware keyloggers, on the other hand, are physical components that are either built-in or connected to a device, capable of tracking keystrokes. These keyloggers can be installed in the keyboard wiring or disguised as USB thumb drives and inserted into a laptop or computer port. Unlike software keyloggers, hardware keyloggers require physical access to the device, making them more challenging to deploy but also more difficult to detect.

To protect against hardware keyloggers, it’s essential to carefully monitor the physical components of your devices and be wary of any suspicious-looking connections or devices. Regularly inspecting your computer cabling and peripherals can help identify potential hardware keylogger threats.

Acoustic Keyloggers

Acoustic keyloggers are a unique type of keylogger that capture the sound of each keystroke from a victim’s keyboard and log what they typed. These keyloggers use a microphone to capture the sound of each keystroke and then analyze the sound waves to determine which key was pressed. Although less common than software and hardware keyloggers, acoustic keyloggers pose a unique threat, as they can bypass many traditional security measures.

To protect against acoustic keyloggers, consider using noise-dampening keyboard accessories or typing in a noisy environment to mask the sound of your keystrokes. Additionally, staying vigilant and maintaining proper security practices can help minimize the risk of acoustic keylogger attacks.

Common Keylogger Deployment Methods

Keyloggers can be introduced to a system in various ways, including phishing attacks, malware infections, and physical installation. Phishing attacks, for example, can trick users into clicking a malicious link or opening an infected attachment, leading to the installation of a keylogger on their device. Malware infections can also deploy keyloggers, often disguised as seemingly harmless software or files.

To protect yourself from these common keylogger deployment methods, it’s essential to stay vigilant and practice safe online habits. This includes being cautious when clicking on links or downloading files, using strong passwords, and keeping your software up to date with the latest security patches.

Legitimate vs. Malicious Use Cases

As mentioned earlier, keyloggers can be used for both legitimate and malicious purposes. Legitimate uses of keyloggers can include monitoring office computers if you’re the owner, monitoring your own computer if other people use it, and ethical hacking. In these scenarios, keyloggers are used to protect sensitive information and maintain a secure environment.

However, keyloggers are often associated with malicious use cases, such as credential theft and identity theft. In these situations, keyloggers are used by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to personal and sensitive information, leading to financial loss or reputational damage.

By understanding the different use cases of keyloggers, you can better assess the potential threats they pose and take appropriate steps to protect yourself.

Detecting and Preventing Keylogger Attacks

Detecting and preventing keylogger attacks is crucial in maintaining a secure digital environment. Some warning signs of a potential keylogger infection include high power use, data traffic, and processor usage. By keeping an eye out for these signs, you can identify potential keylogger threats and take appropriate action to protect your devices and networks.

To prevent keylogger attacks, consider implementing the following protection strategies: use antivirus software, keep your software up to date, employ strong passwords, and be cautious with suspicious links and downloads. By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of keylogger attacks and maintain a secure digital environment.

Identifying Warning Signs

Recognizing the warning signs of a potential keylogger infection is crucial in protecting your devices and sensitive information. Some common indicators include high power use, data traffic, and processor usage. Additionally, you may notice lags in mouse movement or keystrokes, where what you type isn’t showing up on the screen as quickly as it should.

To detect keyloggers, you can use the task manager to see what’s running on your system and research online to determine which processes are safe and which ones may pose a threat. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can identify potential keylogger threats and take appropriate action to protect your devices and networks.

Protection Strategies

Implementing protection strategies is essential in preventing keylogger attacks and maintaining a secure digital environment. Some best practices include using antivirus software, keeping your software up to date, employing strong passwords, and being cautious with suspicious links and downloads.

Additionally, consider using a password manager to store your passwords securely and a virtual keyboard to help prevent keyloggers from capturing your keystrokes. By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of keylogger attacks and maintain a secure digital environment.

Removing Keyloggers and Restoring Security

If you discover a keylogger on your device, it’s essential to remove it as soon as possible and take steps to restore your security. Depending on the type of keylogger, you can use keylogger removal tools or manually locate and eliminate the keylogger from your system.

After removing the keylogger, it’s important to ensure that your security is restored to normal. This includes making sure all your security patches are up to date, using strong passwords, and considering two-factor authentication to further protect your accounts. By taking these steps, you can regain control of your digital security and protect your sensitive information from future threats.

Keylogger Removal Tools

There are several keylogger removal tools available to help you detect and remove keyloggers from your system. Popular software solutions include Norton, Bitdefender, McAfee, Panda, and Kaspersky.

These tools are specifically designed to detect and remove keyloggers, providing an effective solution for eliminating keylogger threats from your system. By using one of these tools, you can ensure that your device is free from keyloggers and that your sensitive information remains secure.

Manual Removal Techniques

In some cases, you may need to manually locate and eliminate a keylogger from your system. This can involve physically inspecting your device for hardware keyloggers or searching your system for suspicious files or processes related to software keyloggers.

When manually removing a keylogger, it’s essential to exercise caution and ensure that you do not accidentally delete any legitimate files or processes. If you’re unsure about a particular file or process, it’s best to consult an expert or perform additional research to confirm whether it is a keylogger or a normal system component.


In today’s digital world, understanding keyloggers and their potential impact on your security is more important than ever. By familiarizing yourself with the different types of keyloggers, their functions, and common deployment methods, you can better protect yourself and your sensitive information from potential threats. Detecting and preventing keylogger attacks is crucial in maintaining a secure digital environment, and by implementing the best practices and protection strategies discussed in this guide, you can take control of your digital security and keep keyloggers at bay. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay secure.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

How do I know if I have a keylogger?

If you notice your computer running slower than usual, the browser lagging, or a disappearing cursor, these may be warning signs of a keylogger on your machine. Be sure to check for any unusual activity and take steps to ensure your privacy is secure.

What is a keylogger on a computer?

A keylogger is a type of malicious software designed to track, record and transmit every keystroke you make on your computer or mobile device. It runs in the background, tracking and recording your keystrokes without your knowledge, giving hackers access to sensitive information such as login credentials, banking details, credit card numbers, and more.

Are keyloggers illegal?

Keylogging is generally not legal, as it involves the accessing someone else’s private data without their permission. US State and Federal Laws clearly prohibit this type of activity, so keylogging can be considered illegal.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

Security Software

Best Antivirus for Windows 11
Best Antivirus for Mac
Best Antivirus for Android
Best Antivirus for iOS
Best VPN for Windows 11

Cyber Threats

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)
Adware Examples
Black Hat Hacker
Botnet Examples
Brute Force Attack
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
Computer Virus
Computer Virus Examples
Computer Worm
Computer Worm Examples
Credential Stuffing
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Examples
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Types
Crypto Scam
Cyber Espionage
Cyber Risk
Cyber Squatting
Cyber Threat
Cyber Threat Examples
Cyber Threat Types
Cyberbullying Examples
Cyberbullying Types
Cybercrime Examples
Cybercrime Types
Cyberstalking Examples
Data Breach
Data Breach Examples
Data Breach Types
Data Leak
DDoS Attack
DDoS Attack Examples
Deepfake Examples
Doxxing Examples
Email Spoofing
Exploit Examples
Exploit Types
Fileless Malware
Grey Hat Hacker
Hacking Examples
Hacking Types
Identity Theft
Identity Theft Examples
Identity Theft Types
Insider Threat
IP Spoofing
Keylogger Types
Malicious Code
Malicious Code Examples
Malware Examples
Malware Types
Man In The Middle Attack
Man in the Middle Attack Examples
Online Scam
Password Cracking
Password Spraying
Phishing Email
Phishing Email Examples
Phishing Examples
Phishing Types
Ransomware Examples
Ransomware Types
Rootkit Examples
Security Breach
Session Hijacking
Smurf Attack
Social Engineering
Social Engineering Examples
Social Engineering Types
Spam Examples
Spam Types
Spear Phishing
Spear Phishing Examples
Spoofing Examples
Spyware Examples
SQL Injection
SQL Injection Examples
SQL Injection Types
Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse Examples
Watering Hole Attack
Whale Phishing
Zero Day Exploit
Zero Day Exploit Examples