Key logger dongleAmazon and other retail outlets both online and offline are full of advertisements for key logger dongles. These are small hardware peripherals, USB or otherwise, that claim to be able to record all the keystrokes you put in to a keyboard. For your backup – or other purposes.

One typical device advertises itself as backing up 2000 pages of text – “a full year’s worth of typing! Everything typed on the USB keyboard is captured and stored on the internal Flash Drive in a special file. Text data may be retrieved on any computer with a USB port and keyboard. Data is accessed just like using a USB Flash drive.”

That all could be very reassuring for an author scared of losing text in a computer crash. I know it’s happened to me before, no matter how many automatic backups or different systems I have going. But it doesn’t need much digging into the specs and marketing literature of such dongles to turn up a more sinister side.

The same device describes itself as “the stealthiest hardware keylogger in existence – it is impossible to detect!” And according to the customer Q&A, it’ll even work for a WiFi keyboard, so long as the WiFi receiver is also plugged into the dongle. Yes, this particular device also offers 64-bit encryption for safe storage – but to keep it safe from who?

A quick Google about key loggers will turn up much device about legal considerations, and about divorce cases and cyber stalking. In the U.S., apparently, there is still no federal-level regulation of key loggers, leaving actual control to state law. And there are software packages that will accomplish the same thing without hardware at all. (Last month, Chris Meadows wrote about an app that serves this purpose for your Android device.) So if you’re tempted by key loggers, be warned that you’re in an ambiguous legal area. And needless to say, if you find such a device in your system, beware.



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