Following on the heals of his recent story that a judge approved the use of keylogging software in a DEA case in order to thwart a criminal using encryption, Declan McCullagh and CNET have released the results of his recent survey of PC security software companies which claim they will detect police spyware. All the companies surveyed claim they can detect police spyware; however only a few acknowledged that they might, at least under threat of a court order, fail to report these detections to the user. This is an interesting follow up to the 2001 report that MacAfee took measures to avoid detecting FBI spyware.
Ed Felton reported on audio keylogging a couple of years back, and of course screens and keystrokes can also be captured in some cases by using remote monitoring or screen capture software, by capturing radio emissions, or simply with hidden video cameras. The average person simply can’t be certain one or more of these techniques isn’t being employed against them.
And it isn’t just law enforcement that has access to these surveillance tools today. These tools are readily available to high tech criminals and others that might want to know what you are doing on your computer. For example, keyloggers are sometimes posted to boards and game sites. Unfortunately, not only can’t you be sure that your security software will detect a particular piece of keylogging or screen capture software, some security software just plain doesn’t work in many cases. Caveat emptor. If you want to be sure, you’ll have to write your own software.
Interestingly, at the current time keylogging software is not readily available for most PDAs and mobile devices, while encryption software is. Future criminals and crime fighters take note.