A Remote Access Trojan (RAT) allows a threat actor to control a computer remotely. It operates similarly to a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and TeamViewer to obtain remote access over a system and have system administration with privileges.
A RAT is a form of malware. It spreads through email attachments or hosting on a malicious website. In some cases, threat actors exploit vulnerabilities to deploy a RAT.
What is a RAT?
Once RAT deploys, it creates a command & control (C2) channel with the threat actor’s server. The attacker controls it remotely using the C2 channel to send commands to the RAT. It also boasts several in-built commands and ways to conceal traffic from detection.
An attacker might also configure a RAT, equipping it with additional capabilities. For instance, an attacker might obtain initial access using a RAT to the victim’s system. They might later decide to install adware on the infected device. The RAT might have adware as an additional in-built feature.
A RAT is a dangerous malware because it gives an attacker complete control over a compromised system. Most RATS function similarly to legitimate remote system administration tools, with the attacker seeing and controlling the infected machine.
Examples of Remote Access Trojans
One example of a known RAT exploit is Poison Ivy. This RAT infiltrates the device using malicious email attachments and exploiting flaws. Poison Ivy has keylogging capabilities. Attackers might also use this RAT as a proxy server to maintain anonymity while browsing the web.
Back Orifice is also a popular RAT. This RAT has been in existence since 1998. Hackers initially built this RAT as a proof-of-concept tool to exploit flaws in the Windows operating system.
Sakula is a RAT linked to the APT19 hacking group. It deploys malware targeting government agencies, technology firms, and defense contractors.
How to Detect Remote Access Trojans
Sometimes, anti-malware software might fail to detect a RAT infection because of its stealthy operation. Below are possible signs of compromise to watch out for:
- Device lagging – RATs use your device’s processing power despite operating in the background. Therefore, you should scan for malware if your device suddenly becomes slow.
- Suspicious files – Watch out for suspicious files or programs you do not recall downloading or installing.
- Frequent website redirects – If your browser constantly redirects you, it could be a tell-tale sign of infection.
- Antivirus program crashes – When an antivirus program constantly crashes or has a slow response, it might be a sign of infection.
How To Protect Yourself Against Remote Access Trojans
Some safety measures to protect yourself against RATs include:
- Update your software – Always ensure your software is up-to-date to solve any patches that hackers might exploit to infect your device.
- Get a good antivirus program – Get a reliable antivirus program and firewall. Update these security tools regularly to detect harmful viruses before they cause damage.
- Be cautious of phishing emails – Attackers use phishing emails to distribute RATs. These emails usually contain malicious links and attachments to malicious web pages that open a backdoor for RATS.
- Use multi-factor authentication – Multi-factor authentication guarantees additional security. This system must authenticate categories like biometrics, security tokens, and SMS codes.
Remote Access Trojans (RATS) are a popular form of malware. It is stealthy and allows attackers to control the victim’s computer remotely. Sometimes, RATS contain additional functionality like a keylogger or adware. Detecting and removing a RAT manually can be a difficult and daunting task. Users should turn to antivirus programs to keep their systems secure.