Is there a way to detect a hardware keylogger without dissasembling a laptop?

I bought a laptop from a friend that he's had for a few years (about 8, old laptop, i know) , and according to him, his dads friend installed a hardware keylogger a couple of years after he first got it. I am wondering if it is possible to detect without taking apart the laptop.

Grathio7 years ago
A hardware key-logger in a laptop? Does your friend have a history of pulling jokes on you?

It's not impossible but it's highly unlikely. Hardware keyloggers work by putting a piece of hardware, similar to a thumb drive, on the cable between the computer and the keyboard and recording the data it sends. Desktop computers are vulnerable to this because 1) the cable between them is easy to get to. 2) It has a standard USB or PS/2 plug on it, 3) no one ever looks at the back of their computer to see it, and 4) It's easy to remove when it's full of data.

None of these things are true of laptops. 1) The connector between the keyboard and the rest of the computer is difficult to get to. 2) the internal connector is often specialized and would be tricky to work with. 3) it would be obvious if mounted outside, and most laptops don't have spare room inside for something extra without causing problems. 4) A key-logger is useless if someone can't get to the data it's captured. And if it's inside your laptop they're going to have to take it apart to get at it again. Hard to do in a stealthy way. A modern key-logger might use wireless or the Internet to transmit it, but you said this was 8 years ago and the technology just didn't exist then to do this. It barely exists now.

So the good news is that there's a very very high chance that it's just not true.

The bad news is that, no, without taking it apart you can't tell. A key-logger sits quietly between the keyboard and the main system, listening to keys being pressed and recording that information to its own memory. It doesn't do anything that you can detect. It doesn't send any signals or anything. You have to look at it to know its there.

On the other hand, taking apart a laptop is usually pretty straight forward as long as you know where all the screws are. (And you keep track of them and where they go so you can put them back together.) If you decide to take your laptop apart, do a search for "service manual" plus the model number of your laptop and you can often find detailed instructions on how to disassemble a laptop and what you are supposed to find once the cover is off.