How to detect keyloggers in Windows systems

How to detect keyloggers in Windows systems

Keyloggers are a dangerous security threat that can easily target even up-to-date computers. Their goal is to monitor your keystrokes and expose this private data to hackers and surveillance agents. Although you can use anti-keylogger software, it is much more effective to detect these threats in advance before they do any serious damage.

Here are some of the best ways to detect keyloggers on Windows computer. We will also discuss an advanced preventative technique called “keystroke encryption” that neutralizes even the most sophisticated keyloggers.

What are keyloggers?

A keylogger is software or hardware that monitors keystrokes entered on a computer / laptop keyboard or mobile device. Hardware keyloggers are inserted via USB or an untrusted driver and are easier to detect and remove. Software keyloggers are more stealthy in comparison and are sometimes undetectable in the infected system.

Unlike regular viruses and Trojans, remote keyloggers do not affect system performance but do much more harm by exposing your private information to others. Think about financial information, passwords, and your anonymous online posts and comments.

Windows 10 Keyloggers What are keyloggers

The most sophisticated of these monitoring agents can profile users based on keystroke analysis, rhythm, and the pattern of their keystrokes. If the very idea scares you, rest assured that for a keylogger to be effective, it must first install properly on your computer. There are different categories of keyloggers, depending on the severity.

  • Browser-based keyloggers: Some malicious websites may use CSS scripts, Man-In-the-Browser (MITB) attacks, or web form-based keyloggers. Fortunately, if you have an updated Windows 10 system and have Windows Defender and other Windows security essentials turned on, these threats will be blocked immediately.
  • General Spyware Keyloggers: Traditional keyloggers are inserted using suspicious attachment or social media / torrent upload. Again, they are likely to be blocked by Windows Defender or an anti-malware program.
  • Kernel level keyloggers: these are more dangerous. They run under Windows operating system as rootkits and may not be detected.
  • Hypervisor-based keyloggers: Using virtualization, sophisticated keyloggers can establish themselves as replicas of the operating system and analyze all keystrokes. However, these threats are very rare.

If you suspect that your Windows system has been attacked by keyloggers, follow these steps to make sure your data is safe.

Use Task Manager to detect keyloggers

Open the task manager with a simple right click in the taskbar. Go to the background processes and go to a “Windows login app”. If it contains a duplicate entry that seems unusual, such as “Logging on to Windows (1)”, it means that someone else is logged into your Windows system (see also How to tell if someone else is connects to your Windows PC). This is the first sign of a potential keylogger. Right click and end the program.

Windows Keyloggers Process Task ManagerWindows Keyloggers Process Task Manager

Also check under the “Startup” tab. If there are any suspicious programs in the start menu, disable them.

Starting Windows 10 Keyloggers Task ManagerStarting Windows 10 Keyloggers Task Manager

Detect suspicious internet connections using the command line

Once you have made sure that no one else is logged into your computer, it is important to check if there are any suspicious internet connections on your device. To do this, open the Windows command line in Administrator mode and enter the following:

Windows 10 Netstatb keyloggersWindows 10 Netstatb keyloggers

All websites and software connected online to your Windows computer are now visible. Those connected to Windows Store, Edge browser, or other system applications such as “svchost.exe” are harmless. Check the IP addresses online for any possible remote location.

Use anti-rootkit solutions against malware

If you suspect you are the victim of a kernel-level keylogger, you should use an effective anti-rootkit anti-malware solution.

Among the lightweight solutions, McAfee offers a rootkit removal tool. As soon as you install it, it will check for updates and kernel mode threats including rootkit keyloggers. The process is very fast and reliable, and this rootkit removal tool does not cause any load on your Windows system.

Windows 10 Keyloggers Mcafee Antirootkit SoftwareWindows 10 Keyloggers Mcafee Antirootkit Software

Currently, there is no effective way to detect keyloggers at the hypervisor level, as such a virtual system may remain invisible and not be detected by you. However, if you think you are the victim of such an attack from Big Brother, there is a technique that allows you to prevent your keyboard from sending your data to them.

Advanced technique: key encryption

Keystroke Encryption is a fantastic way to prevent keystrokes from being logged by encrypting all your keystrokes before they are sent online. If you are the victim of a hypervisor-level keylogger attack, the malware will only be able to detect encrypted random characters.

KeyScrambler is one of the most popular keystroke encryption solutions. It is virus free and safe to use with over 1 million paid users. The personal edition of the software is free and can secure typing data on over 60 browsers. the software can be downloaded on its official website.

Configuring Windows 10 Keyscrambler KeyloggersConfiguring Windows 10 Keyscrambler Keyloggers

After installation, you can activate KeyScrambler from the right system tray.

Windows 10 Keyscrambler Keyloggers ActivateWindows 10 Keyscrambler Keyloggers Activate

In the settings, you can protect yourself against key profiling. This is done with the help of a feature that moderates your typing pace to protect your anonymity from websites that attempt to profile you by the way you type.

Windows10 Keyloggers Keyscrambler AntiprofilingWindows10 Keyloggers Keyscrambler Antiprofiling

As soon as you enter keystrokes in any browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox, KeyScrambler will encrypt all your keystrokes which you can see LIVE on your screen.

Windows 10 Keyloggers Gmail Keyscrambler KeyloggersWindows 10 Keyloggers Gmail Keyscrambler Keyloggers

Despite the serious threat it poses, protecting yourself from keylogging is not that difficult. You can strengthen your defenses using Windows Defender. There are a few warning signs: if your system is much slower than usual, or if you start to notice unwanted pop-ups and ads, or if there is a change in browser settings or the search engine used, your system may have been compromised. You can use the techniques described above to get to the heart of the problem.

Do you think you are a victim of keyloggers? Please explain why this appears to you like this.

Image Credit: Robert van der Steeg


Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over ten years of experience in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise computing, OSS / BSS telecommunications, and network security. He has written for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, the Internet, hardware guides, browsers, software tools, and product reviews.

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