Surveillance Utilities, Computer SpyingHave you ever had a feeling of anxiety for 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 you made a purchase at the online store at least once, paying with a credit card or electronic money, then your computer is the bait 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 repeatedly told about many of them on the 3dnews pages. However, fully relying on the antivirus and password protection system would be somewhat presumptuous. In addition to the danger of a virus attack, there is a very different kind of threat caused by human factors. What happens when you are absent from the workplace? Perhaps, while you finish your cup of coffee in the buffet, during the lunch break at work, someone reads your correspondence by e-mail?
Having received someone else’s computer even for a few minutes, an experienced user can easily find out all the information he is interested in — the history of ICQ and e-mail negotiations, the list of passwords used in the system, the links of resources that the user viewed, not to mention the 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 monitor the working time 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 notice on their sites. However, in most cases it is enough to configure the firewall once, and it will not react to the spy anymore.
Power Spy 2009
Size distribution: 5 MB
Power Spy can be called a universal spy. It is suitable for monitoring workstations of employees, and for monitoring the activities of a child at the computer, and in order to find out what the wife does on the home PC in your absence.
The program can record all keystrokes, save screenshots of windows opened by the user, record the addresses of visited websites, intercept messages sent by e-mail, as well as via 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, running 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 the icon in the system tray, it is not in the list of installed programs and in the Start menu, and besides, the folder in which Power Spy was installed is also hidden. To interrupt a program or uninstall, you need to enter a password, and you can delete a program using its window. The administrator can call the program window with the collected data by pressing a certain key combination. Information about the activity at the computer is presented in a convenient way: screenshots can be viewed in a slideshow mode, information on keystrokes is organized in chronological order by applications and windows, the Email tab shows 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, Power Spy will save it only once, which allows reducing 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 be aware of who is doing what and when at the computer. The program supports work with several Windows accounts and, when composing a report, indicates which user performed certain actions. In the process of setting up the program, you can select the accounts at which the program will run automatically.
Reports compiled by Real Spy Monitor include information on all keystrokes and headings of windows in which the set was made; about visited sites (addresses, headers, download time); opening windows (title, path to the executable file of the program) and files; about running applications with 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 ability to install filters on the applications being launched and the sites being opened. In the settings of Real Spy Monitor, you can specify the path to executable files that can not be run by a particular 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: STAP "Maxapt"
Size distribution: 5 MB
If some other programs of this review can be equally successfully used to monitor the actions of company employees and to track users on your home PC, then Maxapt QuickEye is aimed primarily at corporate users. The main emphasis in it is placed on the means for viewing and analyzing reports. Thanks to this, the boss can quickly find out how much time each employee was actively working at the computer, and what programs he ran. Interestingly, Maxapt QuickEye not only captures open applications, but also takes into account whether there was active work with them. Thus, if the application window was open all day, but the user worked with him for only 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 “Online Communication” 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 with grouping by computers or by time. In addition, you can see the report in the form of a diagram or graph.
Reports provided by Maxapt QuickEye contain information about the presence of employees at the workplace. The program records the moments of entering the operating system, shutting down the computer, switching it to sleep mode, and then automatically calculating how many hours and minutes the employee spent at the computer. At the same time, the time when it was in sleep mode is subtracted from the total time when the computer was turned on.
With Maxapt QuickEye, you can not only get reports on how employees spend their work time, but also limit the use of certain applications. Using the utility, you can create a list of allowed and prohibited programs for each employee, set a work schedule.
Mipko Employee Monitor 5.0.4
Developer: Mipko LLC
Distribution size: 4.8 MB
Previously, Mipko Employee Monitor was called KGB Keylogger. The main advantage of this utility over various keyloggers is that activity can be monitored remotely. Even during the installation, the installer warns you about the presence of an antivirus in the system and the need to configure it by adding Mipko Employee Monitor to the list of trusted applications or exceptions.
The program is very flexible work with multiple users, in this sense, Mipko Employee Monitor is an indispensable tool for the system administrator. For each of the users whose computers need to be monitored, you can set different monitoring options. For example, for one user, you can set tracking only for 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 certain words, Mipko Employee Monitor marks the user's activity with an alarm icon, and, with the appropriate program settings, sends a warning message to the administrator by email or uploads to an FTP server.
The program is perfectly masked; it cannot be detected by the monitor either in the list of running processes or in the list of services. To display or hide Mipko Employee Monitor, you must 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 is to be monitored, while tracking other launched applications will not be executed. The size of the log for each of the users who are monitored can be strictly limited. By default, the program keeps records about the activities of users up to 90 days, if necessary, this period can be increased or decreased.
Information about the user's activity that this program collects would be incomplete if there was no possibility to create screenshots of the screen. The picture can only be taken for the active window or the entire working area of the screen. By the way, on configurations with multiple monitors, you can also take screenshots. When capturing the entire workspace, 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 you open a new window. In the absence of any activity, the creation of screenshots is automatically terminated in order not to generate identical and useless snapshots.
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 different types of active use of the computer. So, it monitors the contents of the clipboard, saves information about the startup and shutdown times of applications, makes screenshots of the desktop at certain intervals, keeps track of the on / off and restart times of the computer. Actual Spy monitors keystrokes and sites visited, and also monitors documents sent to print. The program saves changes in files and directories, records any links used by the browser.
The program is hidden using the shortcut keys
Report on user activity can be saved in text or HTML format, on one or several pages. When viewing a report generated by Actual Spy, the lack of a program is immediately apparent - it only perceives keystrokes in the English layout. Therefore, if it is necessary to read, say, the text of an e-mail in Russian, the reading will turn into the solution of the rebus. 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 give yourself away. NeoSpy developers made sure that after installation the program was invisible on the computer. By installing the utility, you can choose the administrator or hidden installation. In the latter case, shortcuts in the Start menu and on the desktop will not be created, the program folder will be hidden, it will not be visible in the list of installed applications. To run NeoSpy, the administrator will need to use the Start> Run command.
NeoSpy can intercept messages sent via various IM clients. It is gratifying that not only popular clients among English-speaking users are supported, but also those that are installed by most Russians. It is about Qip, Miranda and Mail.ru Agent. In addition, NeoSpy copes with intercepting messages sent using & RQ, ICQ, SIM and other programs.
With 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 made for each of the programs. Screenshots can be viewed in a built-in utility, equipped with convenient navigation tools. The module for viewing screenshots has a special scale indicating the time, so if you want to know what the user was doing at the computer at a certain time, it is enough to 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 visited sites, but also records when the connection to the Internet was made and disconnected from it (of course, if the connection is not permanent), it tracks the number of incoming and outgoing Internet traffic.
By and large, NeoSpy provides an opportunity to follow all the actions that were performed on the computer. So, the program saves everything that was typed on the keyboard, stores the data that was entered into 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 your computer.
Modem Spy 4.0
Size of distribution: 380 kb
This program offers a completely different way of "spying" - telephone. If a modem is connected to the computer, then using a small utility Modem Spy, you can record all telephone conversations. Very handy feature, especially if the desk phone does not have this feature. The recording of telephone conversations can be performed automatically, while the program will keep statistics of telephone conversations in a special call log. In the process of recording, 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 the sound card or played directly into the telephone line. Modem Spy can record conversations, even using those modem models that support data transfer only (data modem). To do this, you need to connect the modem and the line-in input of the sound card using a special adapter. You can also use the Super Spy mode, in which call recording will be performed seamlessly for the user.
Another feature of the program is recording from a microphone in voice recorder mode. Directly from the Modem Spy program, you can send the recordings by e-mail. 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, by enabling the appropriate program settings. Modem Spy has many parameters that allow you to fine-tune a modem to work with a telephone line - correctly determine the busy signal, determine silence in a conversation and cut it to get a file with a smaller size, start recording after a certain call, etc.
Developer: Willing Software
Distribution size: 4.6 MB
If we are already talking about phone espionage, it is impossible not to mention the video surveillance. It can be carried out using a webcam connected to a computer. This simple device, which many people are used to using to communicate with friends, may well be a real spy.
You can turn a webcam into a spying device, for example, using the WillingWebcam software. Using it, you can remotely monitor what is happening near the computer, next to which a webcam is installed. WillingWebcam can take snapshots at regular intervals or only when movement is seen in the frame. The received photos can be sent by e-mail or uploaded to an FTP server. In addition, WillingWebcam can notify the user about new snapshots in other ways: by sending an SMS, launching another application, and playing an audio file.
Recorded using the program video and taken pictures can be accompanied by text labels, as well as an indication of the recording time. In addition, there are many effects available with which you can improve the image quality, for example, to increase clarity.
WillingWebcam has a built-in module for viewing images and video files, organized by Explorer type. In it, you can view thumbnails of images, play back the saved video, choose different modes of viewing the file list. If desired, images can be viewed in full screen mode.
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 keyboard shortcut is used by default.
Elite Keylogger 4.1
Developer: WideStep Security Software
Distribution Size: 5.3 MB
The WideStep Security Software company releases three versions of its keyloggers at once - Family Quick Keylogger, Perfect Handy Keylogger and Elite Keylogger. The last option is the most functional and has the most features.
For example, the Elite version is not detected by antivirus at all, 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 works at a low level of the system's kernel, Windows does not slow down and provides good "compatibility" with antivirus programs. And yet, when Elite Keylogger was first launched, Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 package was suspicious of the new object and recommended sending it to quarantine.
The appearance of Elite Keylogger says that it is intended not only for tracking the user, but for long-term monitoring of activity for a long time. You can view activity statistics in the program by day, using the calendar built into the program. Elite Keylogger allows you to define lists of Windows users who should be, or, conversely, should not be monitored.
Elite Keylogger monitors the work of Internet pagers ICQ, MSN, AIM, AOL and Yahoo, monitors email, 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 time interval after which all the user's 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, at which it will be sent by e-mail.
We draw your attention to one detail - if you want to remove this keylogger, you will not be able to do this using either the standard Add or Remove Programs tool or even using special tools 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 user activity monitoring utility may notice that the choice here is quite large. The demand for such software is consistently high. First of all, such applications are demanded by organizations and firms where strict discipline prevails, and strict requirements are imposed on employees as to what they do in their workplaces.
If only recently the term “keylogger” meant a utility that captured keystrokes, today such applications allow you 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 monitor remotely, tracking in real time what the user is doing, what window he has active, what text he is typing and even with whom he has conversations on the phone.
Those who are concerned about the issue of confidentiality may be advised to use comprehensive protection (for example, an antivirus package and an activity monitoring utility) and rely mainly on themselves. Because for every castle a thief, unfortunately, has a master key.