They started off as tiny, little programs that computer
geeks and programmers used to log and monitor keystrokes
for personal use, but eventually someone realized that
these applications known as “keyloggers” would be one of
the easiest applications to market on the web. The FBI
already used a program known as “magic lantern”, but the
public did no become aware of such programs until later.
one the first keystroke recorders available to the
general public called “KeyKey Monitor,” which was used
primarily as a security and back-up application,
available on a handful of shareware sites. Enter a
scheming marketer. They cut a deal with Mikkotech,
promising to sell their product like wildfire if they
gave them reseller rights. So Mikkotech concurred. This
unnamed reseller (marketer) registered the domain name
KeyKey.com (now gone because of legal reasons), but
still owns KeyKeyMonitor.com (which sells a highly
overpriced and outdated version of the program). Then an
unnamed reseller used Clickbank (http://www.clickbank.com)
to promote the software started selling like hotcakes.
But that was just the beginning.
Clickbank was one of the web’s first affiliate networks
and is still one of the largest. This reseller placed an
affiliate program on Clickbank offering a totally,
royalty-free reseller rights to anyone who bought the
KeyKey application from them. On their site, KeyKey was
marketed as a tool to:
1. Find out what your spouse is doing online
2. Monitor your employees
3. Monitor your children
4. Stop intruders and internal data-theft
5. Back-up your work
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 sparked interest in just about every
But web marketers jumped all over the opportunity to get
their own brand of KeyKey (with royalty-free resell
rights) to sell and programmers made their own versions
of Keyloggers and marketed them in the same way. These
programs very quickly infiltrated the web. Programmers
were breaching copyrights, stealing codes. Before
keystroke monitoring software was created, web spying
for under $50.00 wasn’t possible.
These various newly branded “spy software” programs
eventually became more professional-looking and
efficient, monitoring more than simply keystrokes.
Virtual Imagination made a program called Snap Shot Spy
that used a different approach: It took screen shots of
your PC and let you look at the images to monitor
activity. But this was considered to be primitive by
many, because it took up too much disk space and slowed
down one’s computer. That technology is more efficient
today, however, spy software has continuously evolved.
In the late 90’s, Spectorsoft (http://www.spectorsoft.com/)
and Spytech Web made the two most robust, feature-rich
programs that have been copied for years and still are
imitated to this day. Their programs were: Spector,
Eblaster and SpyAgent (http://www.spyagent-spyanywhere.com).
These programs are amazing! They monitor and capture
everything: Keystrokes, screenshots, passwords, web
sites visited, applications used, Instant Messenger
conversations, hidden windows, mouse clicks and more.
They monitor every aspect of the PC. Best of all, they
run in stealth mode: The program is not visible in the
start menu, Ctrl-Alt-Del will not show the program
running and there is no folder for it. And if by fluke
the program is found, it’s password-protected. If
the logs are found, they’re encrypted!
There are also specialized products like ChatBlocker (http://www.chatblocker.com),
that is specifically designed to monitor Instant
Messengers, and pop3 and web-based e-mail spy software
products, like Webmail Spy, EmailSpy Pro and
EmailObserver all found on Email Spyware (http://www.emailspyware.com).
Spy Vs. Spy
The software facilitated online spying and made it
available and easy-to-use for the general public. And it
was almost impossible to get caught. That has since
changed. After Trojans and Virus Worms ran rampant
across the web and e-mail systems in the early 90s,
there was an explosion in what market? Anti-Virus of
Anti-keyloggers quickly became the product to combat the
growing number of spy programs available to the public.
Privacy was being abolished and it was not at the hands
of the CIA, NSA or James Bond (who supposedly do it for
their profound love of our great Western nations), but
at the hands of our spouses, neighbours, parents and
employers. Sure there are some instances where
keyloggers come in handy, but the anti-spy software
market was just too much of a goldmine for developers to
Out came SpyCop (http://www.spycop.org)
and Raytown Corp’s Anti Keylogger, then later
These are still some of the best available. SpyCop scans
a database of keyloggers definitions that is constantly
updated, much like anti virus programs do.
PrivacyKeyboard is a little different. It claims to
simply block the one and only method that keyloggers and
screen shot recorders can use to capture data.
Nevertheless, these programs really do work in their
quest to block and weed out spy programs.
Today there are many generic brands of spy removers,
dubbed “anti-spyware” programs. They do detect
keyloggers, but also can scan for adware and other
Trojans, pests, dangerous scripts and worms.
Anti-spyware products are effective, but generally
cannot block all keyloggers.
More dangers in the spy market
Some marketers disguise their spyware products as
anti-spyware to get even more confidential information
from targets. They also give false-positive readings on
their supposedly “free spyware scans” to convert fasters
sales. Generally I would advise steering clear of those
heavily advertised products that have nothing more than
a one-page ad for their product.
Another thing to look out for? Keyloggers have now gone
remote. Imagine you remote controlling a PC and monitor
it from afar? Well with RemoteSpy (http://www.remotespyware.com),
Spytech Realtime Spy (http://www.spytech-realtime-spy.com),
I SpyNow (http://www.i-spyware.com)
Smart Keylogger (http://www.smart-keylogger.com)
and other programs you can! They send out as a
Trojan-type file to monitor a computer. You do not even
need access to the machine. These products can be
stopped with a good anti-spyware product, but once there
on your PC they become hard to remove. This is
especially true with Realtime Spy and SpyAgent because
they are equipped with anti-spyware disable features.
SaveKeys Undetecable by Alpine Snow (http://www.alpinesnow.com)
claims to be impossible to detect by anti-keyloggers and
So it is no longer spy vs. spy, but spy vs. spy vs. spy!
Who knows what they’ll think of next? One thing is
certain: This keylogger vs. spy software saga will
continue for a long time, since these programs are now
as common as firewalls and anti-virus.
Bad Spy Vs. Good Spy
This is important. Most “Anti Spy” software sucks. Most
just delete cookies, a few common keyloggers and pests,
and are made by flash-in-the-pan companies that can’t
afford to make updates as new threats arise. These
“anti-spy” programs are simply sold as marketing
gimmicks to scare people into believe they are “being
spied on” to make quick coin.
There are good products, however, but be sure to do a
lot of research before buying anti-spyware software.
Most spy software is decent, user-friendly and useful…
The problem is that they are fairly easy to catch.
Choose a program like NetVizor (http://www.spytech-netvizor.com)
or Net Spy Pro (http://www.system-spy.com)
if you are running a business and want to monitor for
security reasons. If want to monitor your kids, use
NetNanny or IamBigBorther (http://www.parentalspy.com),
which are parental monitoring tools.
Be careful using spy software, as it is now illegal and
considered espionage to spy on competitors or on
computers you do not own or administrate. Only time will
tell what the spy software marketplace will evolve into,
but for now it appears that developers will keep
updating anti spyware programs to combat spyware and
spyware will continue to tweak and morph itself to hide
from anti-spyware. I surmise this will continue until
some sort of strong legislation or court precedence
clearly outlaws one or the other. But until then… spy
and spy-ers beware!