Why RAT malware is so dangerous?

We’ve all heard something about Trojan viruses – typically this can be a frightening topic. The term Trojan comes from Homer’s Iliad. In this story, a wooden horse, given as a gift, is used to infiltrate Troy. The warriors of Odysseuus were hiding in the horse and successfully captured Troy.

In today’s world, a Trojan operates very similarly to the way the wooden horse did in the Illiad. These programs pose as harmless, legitimate programs so that users launch them without hesitation. Shortly after, they begin their malicious actions, such as performing unauthorized user actions.

Remote Access Trojan

We will explain in more detail about a specific type of Trojan called RAT – a Remote Access Trojan. As its name suggests, a RAT behaves like a rat, allowing the attacker to remotely access a victim’s computer at will.

Remote access is quite common. When contacting your support team or system administrator, they are likely to use remote access tools to connect to your computer off-site. This hands-on approach can be much more effective than phone support. With remote access enabled, authorized computers and servers can control everything that happens on your machine. They can open files, download software, and move your cursor in real time.

RATs operate similarly, but do so unlawfully, without your permission. The RAT is installed on a victim’s computer without their knowledge and gives hackers remote access – allowing them to monitor you, install other malware, infect and distribute files, and take control over your local network.

It can be extremely difficult to detect a RAT on your computer. Some users may be infected with RAT for years without even suspecting it, depending on the behavior and goals of the attacker.

Для чего он используется?

Malware always exists for a specific reason. For example, keyloggers record keystroke and ransomware restricts access to files and the computer until a ransom is received. A RAT works best before it is noticed – in this state, a hacker can do literally anything they want.

RATs are often used as spyware. The attacker may use additional malware to steal data such as credit/debit cards, passwords, private information, and confidential documents. In addition, the RAT can activate your webcam or microphone. You wouldn’t like to be spied on, right?

Unfortunately, the RAT’s capabilities don’t stop there. With such unfettered access, hackers can do anything imaginable to infected computers. Attackers might modify or download any files they find or erase your entire hard drive. They may also go to banned sites and download illegal content or do other illegal activities on your behalf.

In addition, criminals can access your entire home or work network as a proxy for anonymous crime, or to create a botnet. A botnet would allow hackers to use the resources of your computer to carry out DDOS attacks, mine bitcoin, or virtually any other task.

Hackers around the world use RAT to spy on companies, stealing their data and money. These trojans are especially dangerous, acting as full-fledged cyberweapons for geopolitical adversaries. Dangerous criminals with the help of RAT can take control of power plants, water treatment facilities, telephone networks, or even nuclear facilities. Chinese hackers have been known to use RAT to steal data from U.S. defense contractors.

How do you avoid getting a trojan?

You can be infected by a RAT just like any other malware. Most often, you install it without knowing it, due to inattention, inexperience, or the desire not to pay for intellectual property.

In order to infiltrate your system, RATs use files that look perfectly legitimate. Hackers might attach it to a document in an email, or in a large software package like a video game or movie. Most often, people pick up trojans when downloading torrents of files or any other files from unverified sites.

In addition, there are sites that start automatically downloading RATs to your computer. Thankfully, most browsers and antivirus software prevents this and warns users when sites are unsafe.

However, you should not only rely on antivirus software – it is not a perfect solution. Some malware is no longer easy to detect, and many Trojans are masked from detection by common antiviruses.

To avoid infection, it is important to form strong habits that protect you. With proper planning and execution, the following methods protect you from most trojans and viruses, not just RATs.

  • Don’t open or download unfamiliar files from unfamiliar sources
  • Only download and install programs from official, verified websites. Never use pirated versions and torrents
  • Don’t leave your computer unattended in public – use Win + L to quickly lock your screen
  • Don’t be lazy – set up a firewall and network packet analyzer
  • Update your browser and operating system regularly
  • Use an antivirus with an updated database of threats
How do you know you’ve been infected by a RAT?

Although it is not easy because of the hidden nature of a RAT, it is possible.

Here are some signs that may indicate the presence of a Trojan on your computer:

  • Strange network activity in the sniffer or firewall – particularly high outgoing traffic
  • Your password for an email or other account has been stolen (this doesn’t always mean that it was a RAT, since it could have been compromised by phishing as well)

Checking your computer with an antivirus, as previously mentioned, is unreliable. With Trojans acting as legitimate software or even encrypting, they are difficult to detect. This is why it is best to use specialized programs, focused on detecting abnormal behavior on your computer. Such systems are called Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS).

If you’re still unsure whether or not you have a RAT, there’s another radical way to protect yourself. Save important documents (hopefully not infected) in advance, format your computer, and reinstall Windows or your desired operating system. This method will have a 100% success rate, unless the malware is highly specialized, and able to penetrate your computer’s UEFI firmware.