The first programs intercepting keystrokes (keyloggers) appeared in the 90s. They were very primitive and complied with a single function – recording the sequence of keystrokes in the log file. Later, they were designed to periodically send this file to e-mail and safely hide themselves in the system (it was not so difficult in Windows 9x). By 2000, there were already more than 300 different keylogging programs.
By 2002, these programs begin to specialize. For example, there appears a paid program to keep track of one’s partners – Loverspy. It was much discussed in the press. In addition, the main purpose of such programs are not keystrokes now but the network user’s activity, mainly – e-mail correspondence.
By 2005, the number of different keylogging programs has already surpassed 6000. They are divided into two groups by the way of usage: some have become hacker tools or a part of viruses, and other – legitimate tools which are not a subject to civil or criminal penalties for its user. In other words, there were found legitimate ways for usage of spyware programs:
- monitoring of children’s activity on the Internet as a way to protect them (parental control software);
- monitoring of other users of owner’s computer (personal monitoring software);
- monitoring of employees as a way to increase their productivity (employee monitoring software);
- tracking by security agencies of typed critical phrases that are a trade secret;
- lawful conducting of tests and investigations of incidents involving the use of personal computers;
- carrying out researches related to the determination of accuracy, efficiency and adequacy of personnel’s reaction to external influences;
- monitoring by users of their own actions in order to gather statistics and optimize their own workflow.
There appeared programs that protect users from illegal keyloggers and anti-spyware modules in anti-virus programs.
Hardware solutions have appeared in addition to software ones. These are small devices built into a keyboard, system unit, or between them, which can capture and store all the information typed on the keyboard. Such devices are difficult to detect and there is no need to even turn on the computer in order to install them.
Later scientists’ researches have shown that even these devices are not necessary, as up to 96% of information typed from the keyboard can be restored with audio of sounds that keyboard is creating while typing.
With the growing popularity of social networks and programs for messaging in these networks, there appeared functions for tracking of such communication in today’s monitoring programs.
Nowadays, development trends of these programs are changing again. The Internet is becoming more mobile, and mobile devices – more functional. Modern phones are equipped with powerful processors, fast Internet connection and GPS-positioning detectors that makes them a target for tracking programs. For example, there already exist programs to protect your phone against theft, which periodically report to the owner its exact location.