Tracking Utilities, Computer SpyingHave you ever experienced a sense of anxiety about the safety of confidential data on your computer? Do not rush to answer that you do not have confidential information. If you believe that you have "nothing to steal," you are most likely mistaken. If at least once you made a purchase in an online store, paying with a credit card or electronic money, then your computer is already a decoy for a potential thief.
The problem exists, and the ideal solution for it has not yet been invented. Of course, there are various ways to protect confidential data, for example, restricting access rights in the system, antivirus software, firewalls, etc. We have talked about many of them on the 3dnews pages. However, relying entirely on antivirus and password protection systems would be somewhat presumptuous. In addition to the danger of a virus attack, there is a completely different kind of threat, due to the human factor. What happens when you are not in the workplace? Perhaps, while you are finishing your cup of coffee in the buffet, during the lunch break at work, someone reads your correspondence by e-mail?
Having a foreign computer at his disposal even for a few minutes, an experienced user can easily find out all the information he is interested in - the history of conversations via ICQ and email, a list of passwords used in the system, links to resources that the user viewed, not to mention access to documents on disk.
About utilities that help to spy, and will be discussed in this review. Such programs can be used both at work to control the working hours of employees, and at home as a means of parental control or as a tool for obtaining information about the personal life of your half.
Note that due to the specifics of spyware, antiviruses and firewalls are often very suspicious of them, often mistaking them for malware. The developers of some utilities even post a notification on their sites. However, in most cases, it is enough to configure the firewall once and it will not respond to the spy anymore.
Power Spy 2009
Distribution size: 5 Mb
Power Spy can be called a universal spy. It is suitable for monitoring the workplaces of employees, and for monitoring the activities of the child at the computer, and in order to find out what the wife is doing on the home PC in your absence.
The program can record all keystrokes, save screenshots of windows opened by the user, capture the addresses of visited websites, intercept messages sent by e-mail, as well as through instant messaging systems (MSN Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, AOL Messenger, AIM, Yahoo ! Messenger, Windows Messenger and Skype Text Chat). In addition, it is possible to save all windows opened by the user, launched applications, typed passwords and information that is entered into the clipboard.
In hidden mode, Power Spy is completely invisible to the user, it does not appear in the list of running applications, does not show an icon in the system tray, it is not in the list of installed programs and in the Start menu, and besides this, the folder in which Power Spy was installed , also hidden. To interrupt the program or uninstall, you need to enter a password, and you can delete the program using its window. The administrator can call the program window with the collected data by pressing a specific key combination. Information about computer activity is presented in a convenient way: screenshots can be viewed in slide show mode, information about keystrokes is organized in chronological order by application and window, the Email tab contains the text of all letters that the user read and sent. In addition, the program stores the contents of all documents with which users worked. Moreover, if the file was opened several times, then Power Spy will save it only once, which reduces the size of the report.
In addition, you can configure Power Spy to send reports by e-mail in HTML format or to upload them to an FTP server.
Real Spy Monitor 2.89
Distribution size: 1.4 Mb
Another utility that will help you keep abreast of who, what, and when does the computer. The program supports working with several Windows accounts and, compiling a report, indicates which user performed certain actions. In the process of setting up the program, you can select the accounts under which the program will automatically start.
The reports compiled by Real Spy Monitor include information about all keystrokes and window titles in which the set was made; about sites visited (addresses, headers, download times); about opened windows (title, path to the program executable file) and files; about running applications with an indication of the start and close times. In addition, the program records messages exchanged by users of IM clients, and can take screenshots at specified intervals.
The collected information can be viewed in the program window (called by the keyboard shortcut
If you use the program to monitor the actions of children, then evaluate the possibility of installing filters on running applications and open sites. In the settings of Real Spy Monitor, you can specify the path to executable files that cannot be started by this or that user. As for sites, you can block certain resources by adding to the black list the full address of the resource or the keyword that the program will look for on the page. For young children, you can set more severe restrictions - allow access only to those sites that appear in the "white" list.
Maxapt QuickEye 2.8.8
Developer: STBP "Maxapt"
Distribution size: 5 Mb
While some other programs of this review can equally well be used to monitor the actions of company employees and to track users on a home PC, Maxapt QuickEye is aimed primarily at corporate users. The main emphasis in it is made on tools for viewing and analyzing reports. Thanks to this, the boss can quickly find out how much time each employee actively worked at the computer, and what programs he started. It is interesting that Maxapt QuickEye not only captures open applications, but also takes into account whether active work was conducted with them. Thus, if the application window was open all day, but the user only worked with it for half an hour, then Maxapt QuickEye will display this in the report.
In the Maxapt QuickEye window, the applications that users work with are grouped into categories. Thus, by going to the "Games" or "Communication via the Internet" category, you can see on which computer and for how long such programs were active. All data can be presented in the form of a table grouped by computer or by time. In addition, you can see the report in the form of a chart or graph.
The reports provided by Maxapt QuickEye also contain information about the presence of employees in the workplace. The program captures the moments of entering the operating system, turning off the computer, entering sleep mode, and then automatically calculates how many hours and minutes an employee spent at the computer. Moreover, from the total time when the computer was turned on, the time when it was in sleep mode is subtracted.
Using Maxapt QuickEye, you can not only receive reports on what employees spend their time on, but also limit the use of certain applications. Using the utility, you can make a list of allowed and prohibited programs for each employee, and set a schedule for working hours.
Mipko Employee Monitor 5.0.4
Developer: Mipko LLC
Distribution size: 4.8 Mb
Previously, the Mipko Employee Monitor program was called KGB Keylogger. The main advantage of this utility over various keyloggers is that activity tracking can be done remotely. Even during the installation process, the installation program warns about the presence of an antivirus in the system and the need to configure it accordingly by adding Mipko Employee Monitor to the list of trusted applications or exceptions.
The program is very flexible in working with several users, in this sense Mipko Employee Monitor is an indispensable tool for the system administrator. For each user whose computers you want to monitor, you can set different monitoring options. So, for example, for one user it is possible to track only the typed text, for another - to track only visited websites, for the third - to keep statistics of running programs, etc.
The program can work using the alarm mode. This means that when a user types specific words, Mipko Employee Monitor marks the user’s activity with an alarm icon, and, with the appropriate settings of the program, sends a warning message to the administrator by e-mail or uploads to an FTP server.
The program is perfectly masked; it is not possible to detect its monitor either in the list of running processes or in the list of services. To show or hide Mipko Employee Monitor, you need to type runmipko on the Windows command line or use the keyboard shortcut
Mipko Employee Monitor allows you to use tracking filters. So, you can make a list of programs whose activity you need to monitor, while tracking the other running applications will not be performed. The log size for each of the users for whom tracking is set can be strictly limited. By default, the program stores records about user activity for up to 90 days, if necessary, this period can be increased or decreased.
Information about user activity that this program collects would be incomplete if there was no possibility to create screenshots of the screen. A picture can only be taken for the active window or the entire working area of the screen. By the way, screenshots can also be taken on multi-monitor configurations. When capturing the entire work area, the image is obtained in the form of two combined screenshots - the first and second monitors. Screen capture is performed either at certain intervals, or when a new window is opened. In the absence of any activity, the creation of screenshots automatically stops so as not to generate the same and useless pictures.
Mipko Employee Monitor intercepts messages in all popular instant messaging programs - ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Miranda IM, Skype, Google Talk, Mail.Ru Agent, Qip.
Actual Spy 3.0
Developer: Keylogger Actual Spy Software
Distribution size: 1.6 Mb
With this program you can get information about the different types of active use of the computer. So, it monitors the contents of the clipboard, saves information about the start and close times of applications, takes screenshots of the desktop at certain intervals, keeps track of the time the computer is turned on / off and restarted. Actual Spy monitors keystrokes and visited sites, and also monitors documents sent to print. The program saves changes to files and directories, records any links used by the browser.
The program is hidden using a keyboard shortcut
A report on user activity can be saved in text or HTML format, on one or more pages. When viewing a report generated by Actual Spy, a program flaw is immediately evident - it only accepts keystrokes in the English layout. Therefore, if it is necessary to read, say, the text of the email in Russian, the reading will turn into a puzzle. However, the Russian text copied to the clipboard is displayed correctly.
We draw your attention to the fact that the demo version of the program can perform its functions within forty minutes. Sometimes this is enough to protect your work computer during the lunch break.
Developer: MC-Soft Software
Distribution size: 2.7 Mb
For spyware, the most important thing is not to betray yourself. NeoSpy developers made sure that after installation the program was invisible on the computer. When installing the utility, you can choose the administrator or hidden installation. In the latter case, shortcuts will not be created in the "Start" menu and on the desktop, the folder with the program will be hidden, it will not be visible in the list of installed applications. To start NeoSpy, the administrator will need to use the Start> Run command.
NeoSpy can intercept messages sent using various IM clients. It is gratifying that not only customers popular among English-speaking users are supported, but also those that are installed with most Russians. These are Qip, Miranda and Mail.ru Agent. In addition, NeoSpy manages to intercept messages sent using & RQ, ICQ, SIM and other programs.
Using NeoSpy, you can collect information about all the applications that run on your computer. The program saves the start and start time, the path to the executable file, the window title. In addition, the report will indicate whether a screenshot was taken for each of the programs. Screenshots can be viewed in the built-in utility, equipped with convenient navigation tools. The module for viewing screenshots has a special time scale, so if you want to know what the user was doing at the computer at a certain time, just move the slider on this scale to the desired position.
Using NeoSpy, you can monitor Internet activity on your computer. The program not only saves the addresses of the sites visited, but also records when the Internet was connected and disconnected from it (of course, if the connection is not constant), it tracks the amount of incoming and outgoing Internet traffic.
By and large, NeoSpy provides the ability to track all the actions that were performed on the computer. So, the program saves everything that was typed on the keyboard, stores data that was entered on the clipboard, tracks changes in files, the creation of new files and their deletion. In addition, if necessary, you can save a complete list of applications installed on the computer.
Modem Spy 4.0
Distribution size: 380 kb
This program offers a completely different way of "espionage" - telephone. If a modem is connected to the computer, then using the small utility Modem Spy you can record all telephone conversations. A very convenient feature, especially if the desk phone does not have this feature. Recording of telephone conversations can be performed automatically, while the program will keep statistics of telephone conversations in a special call log. During the recording process, the interlocutor’s sound will not sound too quiet, because the program uses automatic gain control.
Audio recordings can be saved in any sound format - MP3, WAV, etc. Recorded telephone conversations can be played through a sound card or played directly into a telephone line. Modem Spy can record conversations, even using those modem models that support data only transmission (data modem). To do this, you need to connect the modem and the line input of the sound card using a special adapter. You can also use the Super Spy mode, in which calls will be recorded imperceptibly to the user.
Another feature of the program is recording from a microphone in voice recorder mode. You can send your recordings directly from Modem Spy by email. If the technical characteristics of the modem allow, the program can determine the number of the caller. You can record conversations without the knowledge of the remote subscriber, or with his prior notification, including the appropriate program settings. Modem Spy has many parameters that allow you to fine-tune the modem to work with the telephone line - correctly determine the busy signal, determine the silence in a conversation and cut it to get a smaller file, start recording after a certain call, etc.
Developer: Willing Software
Distribution size: 4.6 Mb
If we are talking about telephone espionage, we cannot but mention video surveillance. It can be carried out using a webcam connected to a computer. This simple device, which many are used to using to communicate with friends, may well be a real spy.
You can turn a webcam into a spy device, for example, using the WillingWebcam program. Using it, you can remotely monitor what is happening near the computer next to which the webcam is installed. WillingWebcam can take pictures continuously at regular intervals or only when movement is detected in the frame. Received photos can be sent by e-mail or uploaded to an FTP server. In addition, WillingWebcam can notify the user of the appearance of new pictures in other ways: by sending an SMS, launching another application, playing an audio file.
Video and pictures taken using the program can be accompanied by text labels, as well as an indication of the recording time. In addition, many effects are available with which you can improve image quality, for example, increase clarity.
WillingWebcam has a built-in module for viewing images and video files, organized by the type of Explorer. In it you can view thumbnails of images, play the saved video, choose different viewing modes of the file list. If desired, images can be viewed in full screen.
WillingWebcam can work in stealth mode. In this case, it will not be visible either on the taskbar or in the system tray. To exit the program from this mode, the default key combination is
Elite Keylogger 4.1
Developer: WideStep Security Software
Distribution size: 5.3 Mb
WideStep Security Software releases three versions of its keyloggers at once - Family Quick Keylogger, Perfect Handy Keylogger and Elite Keylogger. The latter option is the most functional and has the most features.
For example, the version of Elite is absolutely not detected by antiviruses, while Perfect Handy Keylogger is detected, but not by all antivirus packages, and Family Quick Keylogger is detected by any antivirus program. Due to the fact that the keylogger runs at a low kernel level, Windows does not slow down and provides good "compatibility" with antivirus programs. Nevertheless, upon the first launch of Elite Keylogger, the Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 package was suspicious of the new object and recommended that it be quarantined.
The appearance of Elite Keylogger suggests that it is not just designed to track the user, but for continuous monitoring of activity over a long time. You can view the statistics of activity in the program every day, using the calendar built into the program. Elite Keylogger allows you to define lists of Windows users that should or should not be monitored.
Elite Keylogger monitors the work of ICQ, MSN, AIM, AOL and Yahoo Internet pagers, monitors e-mail, application activity and printed documents. The monitoring result can be sent by e-mail, downloaded to an FTP server or copied to a specified folder on a network drive.
In the program, you can set a period of time after which all user activity logs will be automatically deleted. You can also set the maximum size of the activity report, as well as set the volume of the log file, upon reaching which it will be sent by e-mail.
We draw your attention to one detail - if you want to remove this keylogger, you won’t be able to do this either using the standard Add or remove programs tool or even using special utilities that control Windows startup. In order to uninstall Elite Keylogger, you need to go to the Options section and use the Uninstall keylogger button in the interface of the utility itself.
Those who want to try the utility for monitoring user activity may notice that the choice here is quite large. Demand for such software is consistently high. First of all, such applications are in demand by organizations and firms where strict discipline reigns, and strict requirements are imposed on employees regarding what they do in their workplaces.
If until recently the term “keylogger” meant a utility that recorded keystrokes, today such applications make it possible to control almost any type of activity - mouse clicks, launching programs, changing system settings, etc. Moreover, using the programs described in this article , you can control it remotely by monitoring in real time what the user is doing, what window he has active, what text he is typing and even with whom he is talking on the phone.
Those who are concerned about privacy can be advised to use comprehensive protection (for example, an antivirus package and a utility for monitoring activity) and rely mainly on themselves. Because, for every castle, a thief, unfortunately, has a master key.