Although there are a number of ways to peak into what a user is doing on a computer, the solution is going to depend on what information or control you are trying to exact on the user of a particular machine or network.

Here, we will focus on accessing local data and applications that are stored on the target machine.

Solutions

Broadly, there are 2 categories of solutions that are most effective at accomplishing this task. The categories are Hardware and Software. First we will discuss the Hardware Solutions.

1Software Solutions

Most Software Solutions are going to be machine and operating system specific. Some operating systems will not be compatible with certain applications.

Each solution will offer something a little bit different so I’ve compiled a list of a few different programs and their capabilities that should help anyone looking for a reliable product. We will separate the applications by the type of machine so we can be as clear as possible and I will list 3 applications each. We’ve included what we have found to be the most useful tools that an application divides to make clear distinctions between applications and so that you can have a baseline to seek out your own solutions if you need to.

Windows Machines

System Surveillance Pro SpyTech SpyAgent Family Cyber Alert
Compatible Operating Systems Vista, XP, 7, 8.1 98, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 7, 8 98, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 7, 8
Logs keystrokes & corresponding applications Yes Yes Yes
Auto emails / informs of logs Yes Yes Yes
Screenshots Yes Yes Yes
Remote Control No Yes No
Video Recording No Yes No
Microphone No Yes No
Hidden from task manager Yes Yes Yes
Records clipboard activity Yes Yes Yes

Mac Machines

System Surveillance Pro SpyTech SpyAgent Family Cyber Alert
Compatible Operating Systems Mac OS X 10.4 Intel/PPC, Mac OS X 10.5 Intel/PPC, Mac OS X 10.6/10.7/10.8/10.9 Mac OS X 10.5/Intel, Mac OS X 10.6/10.7/10.8/10.9 Mac OS X 10.4 Intel/PPC, Mac OS X 10.5 Intel/PPC
Logs keystrokes & corresponding applications Yes Yes Yes
Auto emails / informs of logs Yes Yes Yes
Screenshots Yes Yes Yes
Remote Control No No No
Video Recording No No No
Microphone No No No
Hidden from task manager No Yes Yes
Records clipboard activity No No No

Alright, now that is just a brief example of the many many ways you can spy on another computer. Note that for most of these it is recommended that you have an auto installer so that you can retain anonymity.

These are not necessarily the best but it will give you an idea what to look for in an application.

2Hardware Solutions

This solution comes most commonly in the form of a USB stick but there are other connectors that serve the same function. There are really limited products that have to be physically inserted into the machine and only record keystrokes and do not record the context surrounding those keystrokes. This poses a serious issue because the keystroke information will hardly be useful unless you have good context about those keystrokes. Therefore, this isn’t a very good solution, especially because it really doesn’t allow control over another user’s machine, out of the box. However, with some programming savvy, you could just use a normal USB still that contains a program that could auto-install itself on the target machine. A seemingly reliable and useful program that records user keystrokes and even captures screen activity is called the Shadow Keylogger.

The next best thing will be to have the hardware inserted into the target machine and then transmit the data over a network so that you don’t have to recover the device in order to extract your data. Introducing the wi-fi enabled USB Keyloggers! Naturally, these devices have a pretty good price range ($34.99 – $199.99). Most of these devices have the ability to email you the logs and screenshots of your target machine at preset intervals which is awesomely convenient. Probably the most attractive quality of these devices, to me at least, is that many are “plug and play.” This means that they don’t need access to a specific operating system to function. They just work!

WThat pretty much sums up the Hardware Solutions, depending upon your proximity to the target or the situation surrounding the monitoring, these devices can be a very effective solution.