Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but avoiding your keyboard will not bypass keyloggers. I'll look at why, and what you need to do instead.

Will this work to fool key loggers? On the desktop, create a notepad (or similar) text file that contains your login names and passwords. Then use ONLY the mouse's "right-click" to copy-paste your entry data from notepad to your internet login. The keyboard is never used since nothing is ever typed real-time. And never save password or form data in IE's, FireFox, ... options. Could this fool key loggers?

No.

I know it sounds completely counter-intuitive or backwards, but ... no, avoiding the keyboard will not necessarily keep you safe from keyloggers.

And that's a reflection of just how sophisticated these forms of malware have become.

As one hint, don't let the term "keystroke logger" fool you.

The reason is actually pretty simple: software that's tracking what you're doing will often track much more than just keystrokes. While we might still refer to them as "keystroke loggers", the reality is that they're much more appropriate called "activity loggers".

"... software that's tracking what you're doing will often track much more than just keystrokes."

Or just plain spyware.

Let's use your idea: in addition to logging keystrokes, activity monitoring software might actually record a screen image at every mouse click. Thus every time you copy or paste using only the mouse, a screen image is captured that shows exactly what you copied and pasted. (Many parental monitoring software packages do something similar.)

In your case, that screen image might even include much more: like the text file you have open to copy from, containing all your logins and passwords.

As you can see this renders not only your copy/paste solution vulnerable, but using an on-screen keyboard - another common suggestion - becomes just as vulnerable.

And it doesn't have to be just keystroke logging or screen capture. Spyware can insert itself anywhere in your system - from a malicious toolbar that has access to everything you do within the browser to a malicious driver that sees everything that's being sent and received via your network, perhaps even before being encrypted for https connections.

Now of course many rudimentary or simple key stroke loggers may capture only keystrokes, and will be thwarted by the approach that you've laid out. I suppose that means that my answer should really be "yes, sometimes".

The problem is how do you know when "sometimes" is? How do you know when the "simple" kind of keylogger is installed versus a more comprehensive activity monitor? (And if you suspect that either is, why are you using the machine at all?)

The only absolutely safe answer is that no, your approach will not work with all key loggers and activity monitoring software. You cannot assume you're safe by "techniquing" your way around activity loggers.

Keep your machine safe, and avoid using machines that may not be. If you must use questionable machines, never use them for anything even remotely personal.

Article C4227 - March 21, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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11 Comments
Robert Mauk
March 23, 2010 8:58 AM

I have a free prog called I Hate Keyloggers. Does it work?

Fred Husby
March 23, 2010 3:12 PM

I have been using the copy/paste method for years. Mow I am using the excellent tool Lastpass. (Can be used as freeware too) I don't think any "screen- or keylogger" has any chance to capture any information that I don't want to share

That's an extremely dangerous assumption. Just because I only talked about screen capture, doesn't mean that other things couldn't be monitored and captured by spyware or activity monitors. Capturing the techniques used by LastPass or RoboForm or other tools of that nature would actually be pretty easy for sufficiently sophisticated malware to do.
Leo
26-Mar-2010

Allen Jenkins
March 23, 2010 3:26 PM

And...
So...
How does Norton360 virus definitions improve above this threat?

I don't understand your question. It's an anti-malware tool. It'll catch some things - perhaps most - and miss some thigns - hopefully few.
Leo
26-Mar-2010

Mark
March 23, 2010 10:01 PM

I use keyscrambler from here..

http://www.qfxsoftware.com/Download.htm

Free for personal use

Dinesh
March 24, 2010 2:52 AM

Friends please download and install keyscrambler. It encrypts what you type in the browser. It installs both at the OS and the browser(Mozilla firefox). When you type something it gets encrypted and passes through the keyboard and when it reaches the browser again it get decrypted. So in between the keylogger gets encrypted text. So it is safe to use. But the draw back is it only help in browser only. If you type something in notepad or msword, it wont help you. And some people are saying that while typing only keyloggers records the strokes, we can prevent this from copy-paste from anywhere. It is not true i have one keylogger, it logs the text in clipboard also. And usage of OSK(on-screen keyboard) is also no use. The things typing from it also getting logged by keyloggers. The best way is to use keyscrambler to protect the passwords while typing in browser or use "safe keys". Please download it from, http://www.aplin.com.au/ it is very safe to use.

Thanks,
Dinesh.

Tools like this will not help. It is still possible for malware to intercept the data in it's unscrambled form. Remember, it has to leave the computer somehow, unscrambled, and thus malware could easily insert itself there.
Leo
26-Mar-2010

Ben
March 28, 2010 1:19 AM

From what I have read here, there is no safe way to use a computer. Just today I scanned with trend micro and found nothing yet a window appears from Vista defender (whatever that is) stating that they found 25 problems including a keystroke one and an unknown software is trying to take control over my system. Now I am afraid to log into roboform to get to my emails and money accounts.

It's easy to think that, isn't it? And yet - there are so many ways that people could break into our house, or steal our wallets, or any number of bad things, and it doesn't happen to most of us. Just because something is possible doesn't mean it's likely. My concern here is that I don't want people to make false assumptions about what is safe, and then go on to assume that otherwise risky behaviour is safe. We all need to know what's possible so that we can take reasonable and practical steps to stay safe.

As for me, I use my computer every day in spite of all the things that could go wrong. I take practical precautions, and get on with my work. (Using Roboform, I might add Smile).
Leo
28-Mar-2010

dan
March 28, 2010 7:07 PM

i tried to install the http://www.qfxsoftware.com/Download.htm on my vista 32 bit , firefox and IE 8, but it failed, then i looked at the file installation better and it tries to put it in one of your own files why is that? I emailed support but they never answered that question.

Then why do you first say this software is not good to use, then you suggest it?
tks

I've certainly never recommended it. Perhaps that was someone else who left a comment?
Leo
29-Mar-2010

Waqar Mushtaq
March 30, 2010 10:44 PM

I remember one of my friends telling me that he can fool the keylogger by using a combination of Keyboard and mouse clicks.
He used to enter his password with some mistakes and then he clicked in between characters using mouse and then fixing the mistakes and then press the Sign In/ Log in button.
Can you tell me how safe is this approach?

Re-read the article. It should not be considered safe at all.
Leo
31-Mar-2010

Edward Satterblom
March 31, 2010 8:04 AM

I thought I was safe using Roboform-to-Go, both at home and at internet cafes while travelling. Now I guess not so! How should you connect with your bank while traveling?

You might well be safe with Roboform to go. The thing to realize is that thinking you've stopped all keyloggers a) is wrong, and b) shouldn't stop you from taking all the neccessary steps to keep yourself safe and avoid keyloggers in the first place. Me, I use encrypted connections, and Roboform (regular), but I'll type in passwords as needed as well when I'm travelling, because I make sure to do everything I can to avoid malware in the first place.
Leo
02-Apr-2010

Chris Dell
April 2, 2010 5:59 AM

This reply is for Ben:
I suspect that the "Vista defender" that you mentioned was possibly a malware program trying to entice you to install it on your system using the scare tactic of having found numerous threats on your computer. The program I think it was trying to imitate was WINDOWS Defender, which is an antispyware program that in part of the Vista OS. I use Windows Defender regularly to scan my computers.
Be very wary of any program offering "free" scans of your computer; most times they are either malware looking for a victim, or sometimes a real vendor just looking for a sale. These programs often have names that are so close to the original & legitimate program, and we have to really be careful when considering using that software. I have seen names that only differ by 1 letter or number from the original.
Chris

Bill
April 3, 2010 9:42 AM

GET VISTA DEFENDER OFF YOUR SYSTEM! Just do a Google search on "vista defender" and you'll see what I mean. Do NOT go to any financial sites as long as that thing is on your system and do NOT listen to whatever it tells you to do.

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