The Keylogger has Come of Age

Keylogging is a relatively ancient method of spying on someone’s use of a computer. The ethically questionable practice of monitoring what someone does on a computer, whether it belongs to them, their employer, their school, or a public computing facility like an internet café, has indeed come a long way and evolved dramatically since the discovery of simple tools like a keylogger on a computer was a surprising and newsworthy event.

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Today, a Google search for the term ‘keylogger’ returns just over two and a quarter million results, and the top ranked of these are from people and businesses selling keyloggers, not from news of the discovery of keylogging or other undisclosed observation of people’s computer use, what some would call ‘computer spying’, while others would use the more euphemistic term ‘monitoring’. This is no longer a relatively unknown phenomenon of the so called hacker underworld, but instead a vast commercial industry.

For those who may not be aware of what keylogging is, it is, at its simplest, the recording or transmission to another computer, which keys are pressed on the keyboard by a user while they are using a computer, without that user being aware of this. One of the roots of this technology was the use of simple little programs to steal people’s passwords, and memory and stealth requirements a few decades ago normally limited keylogging to such scenarios, for short periods of time.

With advances in software technology, it has on one hand made it very easy for the technically savvy users to protect themselves from being spied on or monitored on their own computers, but on the other hand, technically ignorant or negligent users are now at risk of even a simple keylogger recording everything they type on their computer, all the time, without pause. When using computers that are not their own, where users are not in control how the machines are configured, every user is at risk of not only having their keystrokes logged, but nearly everything they do, recorded and observed for reasons that may be range from ethically valid, and beneficial, downright criminal, and possibly very expensive and harmful.

One such usage monitoring product even makes no bones about its purpose, and is named Win-spy Monitoring Software. With this product, for just $40 (US), you can monitor up to ten remote PCs, and an unlimited number of Android based devices, e.g. tablets and smart-phones. Win-spy’s use of the term ‘monitor’ is also as much broader than old-fashioned keylogging as an elephant is larger than an ant. A user can do very close to nothing on a PC running this software without the party doing the monitoring knowing about it.

Alarming invasions of privacy, such as the activation of webcams or microphones on PC’s being monitored place using this software well inside the scope of genuine spying, well beyond innocent monitoring of PC usage. If activated, these devices can observe nearly everything a user does and says anywhere near the monitored PC, including things that have nothing to do with their using the PC and that are no business of anyone but themselves. It is time for legal controls to be instituted and put in place to place using software such as this alongside secretly taking photos of people while they are unaware of it, tapping their phone, or secretly copying their personal documents.

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