Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

07:38 AM

Keyloggers Aren't Viruses... Are They?

Keylogging shouldn't always be flagged as a virus

5:38 PM -- The SANS Internet Storm Center (ISC) is a great resource for things that go bump in the wire. For instance, there are right now posts about current vulnerabilities in Linux kernels and prior, QuickTime, Adobe Reader, and Firefox. Since the ISC incident handlers represent countries from all over the world, they receive and analyze reports of attacks and exploits before most of us get to see them on our network (unless of course, you work for a large university).

On rare occasion, I don't see eye to eye with one of their posts, such as the recent one titled “Does your anti-virus detect old keyloggers?” Keyloggers are not viruses. I'm not the only one that thinks that, am I? Just because malware authors and attackers include keylogging within their malware or install a keylogger to catch passwords, doesn’t mean that they should be flagged as a virus. I find that line of reasoning as annoying as having antivirus catch copies of nmap or similar tools on my systems.

Out of the more than 30 virus scanners VirusTotal uses to scan suspicious files, only four found the Tiny Keylogger file to be suspicious, with three of them flagging it as a keylogger and the other simply calling it Spyware.Gen (thanks, eSafe, for the useless description).

One ISC reader posted a comment that McAfee only detects keyloggers if detection for “potentially unwanted applications” is enabled. I suspect that this is the case for most antivirus software, but I don’t think that keylogging detection should be a function of an antivirus signature -- it should be behavioral.

Catching a “known bad file” takes more work because all known bad files have to be known, and they must have signatures created for them. But a keylogger should be detected since it displays suspicious behavior, such as hooking into the underlying operating system to intercept key presses from the keyboard.

I guess it boils down to what you want from an antivirus product. For me, I want it to do signature detection well -- but behavioral detection, better. Others might have a different opinion, but it goes to show that when you’re testing files for suspicious behavior, you can’t rely on just one source for detection, or even one method of detection.

– John H. Sawyer is a security geek on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. He enjoys taking long war walks on the beach and riding pwnies. When he's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading

  • The SANS Institute

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
    Dark Reading Staff 10/23/2020
    7 Tips for Choosing Security Metrics That Matter
    Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  10/19/2020
    Russian Military Officers Unmasked, Indicted for High-Profile Cyberattack Campaigns
    Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  10/19/2020
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Current Issue
    Special Report: Computing's New Normal
    This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
    Flash Poll
    How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
    How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
    The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
    A Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) vulnerability is identified in FruityWifi through 2.4. Due to a lack of CSRF protection in page_config_adv.php, an unauthenticated attacker can lure the victim to visit his website by social engineering or another attack vector. Due to this issue, an unauthenticat...
    PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
    FruityWifi through 2.4 has an unsafe Sudo configuration [(ALL : ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL]. This allows an attacker to perform a system-level (root) local privilege escalation, allowing an attacker to gain complete persistent access to the local system.
    PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
    NVIDIA GeForce Experience, all versions prior to, contains a vulnerability in the ShadowPlay component which may lead to local privilege escalation, code execution, denial of service or information disclosure.
    PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
    An arbitrary command execution vulnerability exists in the fopen() function of file writes of UCMS v1.4.8, where an attacker can gain access to the server.
    PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
    NVIDIA GeForce Experience, all versions prior to, contains a vulnerability in NVIDIA Web Helper NodeJS Web Server in which an uncontrolled search path is used to load a node module, which may lead to code execution, denial of service, escalation of privileges, and information disclosure.