Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

When Is It Safe to Use Keyloggers?

Keyloggers are like knives.

They can be very useful, but also very dangerous. It depends on who is using them.

When anyone can get a keylogger for $10, it's a good idea to know how to use one. Even if you don't want to use keyloggers, at least you should know how dangerous they can be.

Keylogger Crime

Unless you have permission, it is against the law to install a keylogger on a computer without the user's knowledge. That's because keylogger software is basically spyware.

It enables users to detect what others have typed on their keyboards. The software records keystrokes, which a hacker can use to get sensitive information -- like passwords, account numbers, client files, etc.

Keyloggers have been around since the 1970s, but today's version is not your father's keylogger. They started out as software, evolved into portable forms and now can be used wirelessly.

That means hackers can use a keylogger without even touching a computer. Like using a silencer, they can point it at your keyboard and you will never see it coming.

Legal Uses

However, keyloggers are legal to own and to use for certain purposes. Parents use them to track their kids' browsing habits, and employers find them useful to monitor employees' computer use.

In some ways, keyloggers can protect computer information better than anti-virus software or a firewall because the software works from the inside out. The programs can guard against liability, theft, and lost productivity -- perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the software for law firms.

However, law firms must notify workers before they install keyloggers on company computers. And they should never use keylogger information to access their employees' private accounts or email.

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