A keylogger at its simplest form is an application that can intercept text that is typed on the keyboard and save it to a log file. Some keyloggers can capture clipboard data (when you copy and paste), screenshots on running programs and even mouse clicks.
Most often, keyloggers are used for evil activities, like spying for passwords and IM conversations. But it can also be a necessary tool for protecting yourself and your data.
Here are my top four reasons to use a keylogger (I couldn’t think of a non-evil fifth reason!):
4. Protect the children. Ensure that your child or younger sibling isn’t engaging in inappropriate IM conversations. Kids trust too easily, and may make friends out of strangers (and possible predators) online. I don’t advocate turning on the keylogger without letting your children know, as that is a breach of privacy (your kids have that right too). But perhaps informing them beforehand would be deterrence enough.
3. Troubleshoot your PC (or Mac). If your computer has a lot of users, oftentimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s being installed and downloaded. If your computer suddenly hangs when only a day ago it was working fine, you can check the logs to see what happened in between. Maybe your dad installed an incompatible driver. Or maybe your brother was visiting a porno site and got your PC infected by a virus.
2. Monitor who’s using your computer. Sometimes you leave your computer on at work, trusting that your coworkers aren’t the type to snoop and nose around your belongings. But to be sure, turn on your keylogger when you’re gone. Hard evidence protects you better than blind faith.
1. Claim your data. For example, you bought a router or signed up to an ISP. The service guy comes in, configures your computer and network, then leaves without explaining what he just did. When your network goes down, you have no idea how to fix it except to call customer service, which almost always doesn’t help. If you had installed a keylogger, you would have known exactly what your service guy did and retrace his steps to get your network working again. Who knows, you might even stumble across a better configuration and increase your Internet speed.
There are probably many other non-evil ways to use a keylogger. If you have a suggestion, drop a comment. You can download some free keyloggers here, here and here (the last one is good but only a 7-day trial).