There are many ways to protect against keyloggers, however, and ensure that you don’t become a victim of identify theft or have to deal with any lesser hassle, like a hijacked World of Warcraft account. While no defense is perfect, these steps improve your chances.
Use A Firewall
In most instances, a keylogger has to transmit its information to a third party in order for it to do any harm. This means sending information out of your computer via the Internet. Although a very close examination of your network usage might reveal a keylogger, you can’t count on that as a means of monitoring for them. The bandwidth taken up by recorded keystrokes is virtually undetectable in a broadband world.
A firewall is a great defense against keyloggers because it will monitor your computer’s activity more closely than you ever could. Upon detecting that a program is attempting to send data out, the firewall will ask for permission or display a warning. Some firewall software, such as ZoneAlarm, provides you with the option of shutting down all inbound and outbound data completely.
The use of a firewall can’t guarantee protection, but it’s an important line of defense that should catch most threats.
Install A Password Manager
Keyloggers work well because they’re simple. They just take raw information – keystrokes – and ship them out of your computer to a third party. The information they send doesn’t have to take up much bandwidth, and it can be logged quickly without any apparent performance impact on the target PC. Most users infected with a keylogger will never know it unless an account or credit card is hijacked.
One weakness of keyloggers, however, is the fact that you can’t keylog what isn’t typed. That’s where automatic form filling becomes useful. If a password is filled in automatically by your PC, without any keystrokes, the password will only be susceptible to keyloggers the very first time you type it.
All the major web browsers have this feature baked in and will ask to store your password information the first time you type it. Some computers ship with software that offers this functionality throughout the entire operating system. If you don’t have this software already installed, check out our post on the best free password managers.
Keep Your Software Updated
Being proactive about your computer’s security is always a good idea, and the most important part of a proactive defense is keeping software updated. Keyloggers, like most variants of modern malware, can exploit software vulnerabilities to inject themselves into your system without you, and in some cases your antivirus, being any the wiser. Adobe Flash, for example, has had issues with remote code execution exploits in the past. A malicious website could use such an exploit to install a keylogger on your PC.
Exploits are being found in software all of the time. Even Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are routinely patched to take care of critical exploits. If you don’t update your system you will be leaving it open to all sorts of attacks that could otherwise have been avoided. Yes, making sure all of your software is up to date can be a pain, but consider the alternative. This is an easy, proactive remedy that will stop most attacks before they can start.
Change Your Passwords Frequently
For most users, the measures above will provide enough protection to ward off any keylogger woes, but there always seems to be people who have their passwords stolen even though they did everything right.
This probably is the fault of exploits that have yet to be identified or patched, and it can also sometimes occur because of social engineering – it’s not unheard of for a Twitter account to be hacked and begin tweeting out links to malicious sites and files. Every smart geek is vigilant, but nobody is perfect.
Changing your passwords frequently will help minimize the potential damage of a keylogging attack. Your password may be stolen, but it would be uncommon for it to be stolen and used immediately, unless that keylogger was targeted directly at you (in which case you may have bigger problems than keylogging!). If you change your password every two weeks, your stolen information will no longer be useful.
These methods will help protect against keyloggers by decreasing their opportunity to infect your PC and decreasing the information they can steal if one does happen to be installed. Although you can never protect yourself 100%, taking these steps will decrease your risk.
If you know of any other security precautions, let us know in the comments.