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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Best Free Onscreen Keyboard

Best Free Onscreen Keyboard

In a Hurry?
  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide – Assistive On Screen Keyboards
  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide – Security On Screen Keyboards

As the name implies, an On-Screen Keyboard (OSK) is a virtual keyboard that is displayed on the computer screen.  It is used as an alternative to the physical keyboard, so people can "type" by using a mouse or other input device. 

As a general rule, there are two main reasons why someone would want to use an on-screen keyboard (OSK):

  1. Assistive: As a physical keyboard replacement:
    • A user may not be able to use a physical keyboard - they may use accessibility devices such as switches and pointing devices, or may be using a touch screen, or
    • A user may choose to use an alternative way of entering keystrokes - they may wish to use their native language on a foreign-language machine.
  2. Security: To enhance their security and protect against malicious software (like keyloggers). 
    • Security OSKs are often used to offer the user extra protection when using public, unprotected, or potentially suspect computers (eg. at libraries and internet cafès).
    • Security OSKs can help to protect against malicious software that may have a combination of the following features:
      • Keylogging - where the physical keyboard activity is logged,
      • Screen logging - where screenshots are taken at regular periods, or taken every time the mouse is clicked,
      • Clipboard logging - where the clipboard is actively monitored,
      • Mouse Position logging - where the coordinates of mouse clicks may be captured; this is primarily used to defeat web-based banking OSKs, and
      • A technique I call 'field scraping' - where the program may 'scrape' or 'grab' the value of a text box, even if the text box has a password in it and covered by the **** password mask.

The good news is that there are some great, free programs that will assist with both of these needs.

However, I want to stress that people should use the right tool for the job; use OSKs that are designed for accessibility for that purpose.  Use OSKs that are designed for malicious software protection for security purposes. 

Accessibility OSKs do not offer any real protection against malicious software, just as security-focused OSKs do not offer much functionality as keyboard replacements. 

In addition, Security OSKs should be seen as part of your overall security regime, to assist, but not replace other security software (like firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware applications).



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