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Though not foolproof, virtual keypad is safer than keyboard

Though not foolproof, virtual keypad is safer than keyboard
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First Published: Thu, Nov 10 2011. 08 56 PM IST

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iStockphoto
Updated: Thu, Nov 10 2011. 08 56 PM IST
Online frauds are not uncommon when it comes to Internet banking. It, therefore, becomes imperative that you should take utmost care to not let your banking details get hacked.
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A report released by Internet and Mobile Association of India, a not-for-profit industry body, on 8 November shows that a majority of the Internet users still access the Web through shared Internet connections—27% from cyber cafes and 22% from offices. These mode of Internet access are especially prone to fraudulent activities as fraudsters can easily gain access to personal data of the users through hacking.
Though nothing is foolproof, but there are ways to secure banking information. One way to do it is using the virtual keypad. While doing an online banking transaction, a fund transfer, credit card payment or any bill payment, the online billing platform offers two options to key in the Internet password—keyboard strokes and virtual keypad.
What is a virtual keypad?
If you use the Internet banking facility, you would have come across a virtual keypad. It is a simulated keyboard that appears on the computer screen and can be used with the help of a mouse.
Though not an exact replica of a computer keyboard, it has all the characters that can be used to constitute a password. However, the position of keys on the virtual keypad keeps changing every time a user logs in. “Majority of the people in India use cyber cafes to access Internet. Computers at cyber cafes are infested with malwares and spy wares and thus keystrokes can be mapped. So it is recommended that one should use virtual keypads,” says Pavan Duggal, a New Delhi-based cyber law expert.
Is it better than keystrokes?
A simple software, known as keylogger in Internet parlance, can be installed in the computer which can map all the keystrokes used. These programs can even be installed on home computers without the knowledge of users. “Usually, if you get an email with an .exe (executable) file you will suspect it and not click on it. However, these keylogger malwares can be in .doc, .mp3 or any such unsuspecting format which you may click. After you click on this file, the program gets installed on your computer within a few seconds,” says Dominic K., a New Delhi-based cyber security expert. After this malware is installed on a computer, the person who has access to it can receive all the keystrokes used through an email. If it is a shared computer, then the data can also be downloaded by the person who sent the malware.
However, if you use a virtual keypad, the keylogger—which is a dedicated malware to track keyboard strokes—cannot follow the password keyed. This acts as another layer of security for your banking transactions.
Is it foolproof?
Though not completely safe as instances of passwords being hacked despite the use of virtual keypads have been reported in some parts of the world, it is a very difficult job. “Security is a relative phenomenon. As virtual keypads are also software programs, they can be hacked into but as of now that is not happening,” says Duggal.
The size of such programs is usually very big and if it is installed on a computer the operating system runs very slow. It would take hours to download such a program, hence alerting the computer user.
With the instances of online frauds on a rise, it pays to be cautious.
saurabh.k@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Nov 10 2011. 08 56 PM IST