Keylogger vs keystroke counter. What’s good, what’s bad.


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There is plenty of software circulating right now on the market offering keylogging-related functions. At the same time, there is software offering keystroke counting. Both software types record keyboard use and both calculate keyboard use speed. Keylogger-type software goes beyond this functionality and offers content capturing, it records what people type. Now let’s dig into this topic deeper and discover the benefits and the hidden problems around keyloggers and key counters.

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1. Keystroke logger

Keystroke logger in employee monitoring or keylogger captures keyboard usage, key pressing speed, and key value. This function is mostly used to capture content. Also, it might be used to evaluate how frequently keyboard buttons are pressed.

Keystroke loggers are mostly used to capture content.

Why do employers want to capture content?

One of the reasons why employers want to capture content of emails, chats, documents, and other content is for security purposes when they want to make sure no confidential information is misused. Other reasons could be quality assurance or investigation. But instead of protecting, this approach might create security issues. While capturing content you record passwords, private information, and private messages. This information can leak out and potentially might be the reason for legal issues. A few examples can be found in this article. This Forbes article warns employers from using intrusive monitoring.

Keyloggers might be the reason for security problems.

Who else is interested in keylogging except for the employers?

Any malicious software is interested in capturing your content. This is in general to steal your passwords, your banking information, your money, and your private information. The targeted person is not aware of the software installed on their computer.

Keystroke logging is a trait of malicious software.

Is keystroke recorder a spy tool?

Keylogging is more of a hacking tool, most often introduced as a virus, and less often used to monitor employee performance. Keyloggers are capable of intercepting any text, including credit card numbers, passport details, and passwords.

When a keystroke recorder is used as an employee monitoring tool, there is a risk of personal data leakage. A lot of malware wants to log keystrokes as this is the easiest way to intercept the victim’s bank details.

In addition, keystroke loggers are very difficult to detect and they can record employees’ keystrokes even outside of the office hours, when employees are using their computer. Not everyone knows this, but the keystroke recorder in Windows 10 is present by default, and it potentially can also be used by attackers or viruses.

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Is keystroke logging software legal?

In the USA, keylogging is allowed by the federal legislation as long as it’s used for legitimate business reasons. Check this analysis by country in the WorkTime legal series blog section.

However, there are many factors that allow for the use of this tool, as a keylogger can be used for surveillance, and accordingly, employers who intend to use this tool must comply with relevant standards and laws.

In New York, for example, the use of such a tool is allowed, but employers are required to notify employees before using the keylogger.

How to detect keystroke logger?

You can use this little free application to detect keyloggers: SpyDetectFree. The application checks for keylogger-like behavior on your computer. If any suspicious behavior is detected it will say that you are most likely spied on.

SpyDetectFree is a free application to detect keystroke loggers.

In general, detecting keystroke loggers is not easy, as they can run as a software or as a separate device connected to a PC.

It is advisable to delete keystroke loggers, as they can pass recorded keystrokes outside of your computer, and all your content, your emails, messages, passwords, and your entire work-related content can leak out and it can be used for malicious purposes.

Detecting windows 10 keylogger starts with checking for suspicious and unfamiliar applications in the system autorun, if any, you can disable or remove them. Installing an anti-spyware program might help with keystroke logger detection and eliminating it.

Check all USB inputs on your computer, since keyloggers can be embedded as an USB device.

2. Keystrokes counter

Keystroke counters capture keyboard/mouse usage and key usage speed. They do not capture content, so they do not cross the line of privacy.
WorkTime employee monitoring offers its keystroke counter so that employers can evaluate employee productivity: how fast they press buttons, which are the most “key-pressed” applications and websites, who is the fastest/slowest “key presser”. But this is one of the many other productivity monitoring functions WorkTime has to offer.

WorkTime keystroke counter

Why do employers want to use a keystroke counter?

Keystroke counters allow employers to automatically monitor employee productivity. With the help of this tool you can obtain detailed data on employee computer activity, such as number of keystrokes pressed, keystrokes per application, keystrokes per employee etc. Moreover, keystroke counters do not invade employee privacy as they do not capture any personal data, so no personal data can be exposed and there is no risk of information leakage.

Keystroke counters do not capture any content and are used mostly for employee productivity monitoring.

Is keystroke counter a spy tool?

Unlike recording keystrokes, this tool cannot be used for spying purposes as it does not capture any kind of content. For example, a keystroke counter function is part of WorkTime monitoring software. It captures keystrokes number, keystrokes pressing speed, and keystrokes per application/per employee.

Is keystroke counter legal?

Keystroke counters are permitted under the US law, read more about it in our blog WorkTime, its legal series.

In general, this tool cannot be considered spyware or used for spying purposes, as it does not intercept information and does not compromise the safety of employees. Therefore, the keystroke counter does not require compliance with any special standards, and unlike the keylogger, it is easier to implement in a business due to its simplicity, security, and absence of the threat of confidential information leakage.

3.Content-sensitive industries & employee monitoring

Healthcare, banking, financial, insurance defense, and government – all companies belonging to those industries deal with very important and very sensitive content. They also often have the need to monitor their employees, but not everything, just enough to monitor employee productivity. In the USA, for example, there is special legislation that regulates and protects patients’ health information – HIPAA.
The best way to monitor employees and not get into any unnecessary problems is to use employee monitoring software that does not capture any content. There are plenty of functions helping to fulfill employee productivity monitoring needs without going too far.

4. Data security & employee monitoring

As mentioned above, there are sensitive industries where good data security is crucial. A keylogger, however, is just the opposite, as it can expose all data that passes through it and raise doubts among employees, since there is nothing to stop the employer from intercepting private messages.

It is important to ensure that all monitoring tools used are secure and that the data collected is protected from unauthorized access or use. This may involve encrypting the data, restricting access to authorized personnel, and ensuring that the stored data meets relevant regulatory requirements such as GDPR or HIPAA.

5.Employee privacy in the workplace

Privacy in the workplace is now receiving a lot of attention from employees and employers alike. In general, expecting privacy in the workplace for employees is a reasonable desire, such as protecting personal correspondence, banking data, and personal data. However, there are some circumstances in which the employer also has the right to monitor employees, even in these areas.

A few examples of areas in which an employer can monitor an employee’s personal life include:

  • Workplace monitoring: The employer can use various methods to monitor employees, such as electronic monitoring and surveillance cameras. This is done to ensure that the employee’s standards are met and to prevent absenteeism, inefficient timekeeping, and so on.
  • Personal devices: Sometimes employees have to use personal devices for work, in which case the employer must also respect the personal space of the employee because the device is also used in their free time. In this case, the employer can only monitor the work activity without affecting the confidential information of the employee.
  • Communication: Employers may well monitor communication between employees, view group chats of the state or department. This is done to view teamwork and how employees coordinate with each other to accomplish a common task.
  • In some states, employers are required to inform employees whenever their personal information, correspondence, browsing requests and history, or keylogging are viewed. However, this is not the case everywhere, and in many states, the employer may not notify employees. Nevertheless, the employer must obtain the employee’s general consent to monitor their activities.

6. Ethical concerns around employee monitoring

While the legislation is quite clear and unambiguous, the situation from an ethical point of view is far from simple. A cursory glance shows that most employees want as much freedom as possible and are against stricter control. They see constant self-monitoring as an intrusion into their personal boundaries, which leads to an accumulation of stress, a decrease in job satisfaction, and ultimately, a drop in performance or even dismissal.

If you look at the whole picture, the main problem of monitoring employees becomes clear: the fear that they will be watched at all times and everywhere. But if you look more closely, it becomes clear that competent personnel monitoring is not at all perceived as tight control.

WorkTime does not use invasive monitoring methods such as keyloggers, wiretaps, camera recording, or browsing history. The main advantage of our employee monitoring is the respect for personal boundaries of employees.

Respecting employee privacy and using monitoring is really not a difficult task.

There are three simple guidelines by which you can establish appropriate and ethical monitoring of employees:

  • Transparency. If the employer is monitoring someone, the staff should know about it, and it should be made clear what the monitoring is for.
  • Rest time. Even though people come to work, they also care about rest time. During breaks, it is worth leaving the staff unmonitored and giving them a break.
  • Softness. The more pressure the employer puts on employees, the more they will resist any monitoring. Therefore, it is necessary to respect everyone’s opinions and wishes when integrating them into the monitoring system.

7.Keystroke counter & keylogger in business

Keyloggers and keystroke counters are used everywhere in businesses because it’s convenient, doesn’t require managers to be around employees all the time, and you can apply these tools to multiple employees, which makes it much easier to control a large staff. However, some companies do not choose between keylogger and keystroke counter for nothing, as this choice is influenced by many factors, starting from the business sector and ending with security doubts.

8. Keylogger in business

Using a keylogger as a tool to monitor employees is a highly controversial choice. On one hand, it can ensure that employees do not violate company confidentiality, and also provide insights into how they work, what they type, and how they use the keyboard. However, as mentioned earlier, keyloggers can also pose a risk to the company itself. Even a minor mistake in selecting a keylogger can compromise the security of the company and the personal data of employees. Moreover, few employees would be happy to work with a tool that intercepts their personal correspondence.

Therefore, keyloggers are primarily chosen by companies that place an extremely high value on confidentiality or need to monitor every action of their employees to control the work process. Examples of such companies include support departments, financial companies, or government agencies.

9. Keystroke counter in business

A keyboard keystroke counter is a non-invasive tool that cannot intercept text or compromise the security of the company and its employees. The main difference between a keylogger and a keystroke counter is that the latter only reads the number of keystrokes. This makes it a versatile option for businesses, as it can be used in various industries without alarming employees that they are being watched. Furthermore, it can measure employee effectiveness no worse than a keylogger.

Based on WorkTime’s experience, a keystroke counter is just as effective as a keylogger. Therefore, this tool can be used to monitor employees’ work.

10. Alternatives to keystroke logging for employee monitoring

From the information above, we already roughly understand what a keylogger is and that it is more of a spy tool than an employee monitoring tool. Although keyloggers may be necessary in some industries or situations, they mostly just undermine employee confidence and put pressure on them.

There are alternative monitoring methods that are less invasive or not invasive at all, yet still effective in monitoring employee performance.

Internet and traffic monitoring is an important part of employee monitoring. Employers can use it to track an employee’s internet usage and to prevent non-work related internet use.

Performance indicators, which are based on specific goals and tasks that the employee needs to accomplish, are another useful method. While this method cannot show the whole work process in real-time like a keylogger, it is non-invasive and can show an employee’s overall productivity.

Another alternative to keylogging is the keyboard keystroke counter, which is the most advanced WorkTime solution. It shows the same level of performance as a keylogger but without breaking confidentiality or putting pressure on the employee. The keystroke counter assesses an employee’s performance by the number of keystrokes in each application or site, but it does not intercept typed text.

WorkTime is a great alternative to keyloggers. It’s a non-invasive & effective keystroke counter.

Overall, it is essential to consider the privacy of employees when implementing monitoring solutions in the workplace, and to choose the least invasive method possible while still ensuring the safety and productivity of the workplace. Employers should communicate their monitoring policies clearly to employees and obtain their consent where necessary.

11. Keystroke counter for Windows (10, 11)

Windows 10 has a built-in keylogger but due to the privacy concerns employees keep this function off most of the time. This is understandable. If you want to count your keystrokes without any privacy invasion, simply use the WorkTime keystroke counter.

WorkTime offers non-invasive monitoring tools, in particular the keystroke counter.

WorkTime keystroke counter can be used instead of the Windows 10 and Windows 11 keylogger. Thanks to our non-invasive employee monitoring model, our tools do not compromise confidential information or violate employee privacy. That’s why the WorkTime keylogger is an excellent alternative to the built-in Windows keylogger, as nobody is immune to viruses and various malware can use the keylogger built into Windows to intercept text.

12. Non-invasive keystroke counter WorkTime

WorkTime is the only non-invasive monitoring software on the market. Among many employee monitoring functions, WorkTime offers its keystroke counter.
WorkTime keystroke counter is a great tool to monitor employee productivity.

Keystrokes per application/website

WorkTime shows keystrokes per employee or per application/website. In WorkTime reports you can see the most “clickable” applications/websites, keystroke speed per application/website, and same per employee. WorkTime also shows if the application/website is productive or not. So, basically you know what are the most actively used productive and unproductive applications and websites.

Keystrokes per hour

WorkTime monitoring reports display very convenient charts in any browser. In WorkTime reports you can see which employees are the most productive and which are the least productive, as well the most and the least keystroke hours.

WorkTime keystroke counter

WorkTime monitoring system does not use any spy functions to monitor employees. Convenient browser-based reports allow employee monitoring from any device (phone, desktop, laptop), any operational system (Windows, Apple). The below screenshot shows Keystroke per employee, application, is the application productive or not.
WorkTime keystroke counter

This report shows that a few employees are engaged in unproductive activities and the Microsoft Photos app is the most actively used:
WorkTime keystroke counter

WorkTime keystroke counter shows lots of useful details to measure employee productivity without crossing the boundary of employee personal space.
WorkTime offers many monitoring functions for companies of any size in a wide range of industries. This monitoring software can improve work process efficiency and employee productivity without invading employee privacy.

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