PC Logger: AutoIt3 script for PC activity monitoring

Due to COVID-19, the kids had to do online learning for a couple of months. Unfortunately, they were constantly tempted to play games or watch YouTube during class time. Sometimes they became so immersed that they missed lessons, or forget to complete assigned tasks.

I tried various solutions, such as parental control software, or lock down the router. None of them worked for me. There were just too many things to configure. Furthermore, some potential avenues for distraction (eg. YouTube) might sometimes be necessary for schoolwork (eg. YouTube being used for information or research by the teacher).

The solution I eventually settled upon turned out to be quite simple. I hacked together an AutoIt script that logs details about the active window (title and executable) to a Google form periodically. By looking at the logs from time-to-time, it gives me a pretty good picture of what they have been doing on their computers, and have a chat with them when things get out-of-hand.

Github repository for the script

To use the script, first open up this Google Form. Then click on the dot-menu at the top-right hand corner and select "Make a copy...". Give it any name you want (eg. "PC Logger") and click "Done". This will save the new copy to your Google Drive, and open the form in a new browser tab.

Now, click "Send" at the top-right corner, then click on the "Link" icon:

Click "Copy" to copy the URL and open it up in another browser tab. This is the actual form that allows the submission of new information, and we are going to obtain some details from it so that the AutoIt script can use them to submit new information.

You should also have the AutoIt script pclogger.au3 opened in a text editor (yes, even Notepad).

View the source code of the form (usually right-click on webpage and select "View page source"). Then look for (Ctrl-F):

  •  "<form action=". Then copy everything within the double-quotes (should be in the form "https://docs.google.com/forms/u/.../formResponse" and paste it into the script, assigned to $FormResponseUrl.
  • "data-params=", followed by "&quot;Username&quot;,null,0,[[<number>". Copy the "<number>" into the script, assigned to $FormUsername.
  • "data-params=", followed by "&quot;Executable&quot;,null,0,[[<number>". Copy the "<number>" into the script, assigned to $FormExecutable.

  • "data-params=", followed by "&quot;Title&quot;,null,0,[[<number>". Copy the "<number>" into the script, assigned to $FormWinTitle.
After all is done, the top part of pclogger.au3 should look like this:

; Find the following information from your own Google Form
; Look for "<form action="
Local $FormResponseUrl = "https://docs.google.com/forms/u/0/d/e/.../formResponse"
; Look for "data-params=" followed by &quot;Username&quot;,null,0,[[<number>
Local $FormUsername = <number>
; Look for "data-params=" followed by &quot;Executable&quot;,null,0,[[<number>
Local $FormExecutable = <number>
; Look for "data-params=" followed by &quot;Title&quot;,null,0,[[<number>
Local $FormWinTitle = <number>

Now if you do not already have AutoIt, download and install it from their website. Then from the Start Menu, select "Compile Script to .exe":

This lets you convert pclogger.au3 to an EXE. You can give the EXE any name that you want (doesn't have to be pclogger.exe, that would be boring). If you want to be fancy about it, you can even give the EXE a custom icon (I just use the default). Make sure the "x64" checkbox is checked (who runs 32-bit Windows these days?).

Now run the EXE. No icon will appear in the taskbar, because "#NoTrayIcon" was specified in the script. So the only way to kill it is via Task Manager (Ctrl-Alt-ESC). But as long as the EXE is running, it will log information about the active window to your Google Form at a 1-minute interval.

However, I find the most useful way to visualize the logged information is by creating a linked Google Spreadsheet. Do it by clicking on the green Sheet button on the top-right:

You have the option of either creating a new Sheet, or using an existing Sheet. Once that is done, the Google Sheet is opened, and you get the form information nicely tabulated:

This Google Sheet is hot-linked to the form, so any new submissions will automatically be reflected. With all the data in a spreadsheet, you can sort, search and tabulate to your heart's content.

Once you are happy the EXE is working correctly, do the following to make it auto start. On the target machine, press <Win+R> and type "shell:common startup". This will open up the auto-start folder. Copy the EXE into this folder. Then it will be automatically executed when Windows restarts.

Besides using the script to monitor the PC activity of kids, this script could potentially be used for employee monitoring as well. However, whichever the case, please make sure the party being monitored knows about this. Spying or monitoring in stealth is never acceptable!


Popular posts from this blog

Adding "Stereo Mixer" to Windows 7 with Conexant sound card

Hacking a USB-C to slim tip adapter cable to charge the Thinkpad T450s

Attiny85 timer programming using Timer1