Throughout history, rats have been regarded as filthy vermin responsible for damaging property, destroying food, and spreading parasites and diseases that have caused great devastation. At the slightest sign of a rat infestation, most people act immediately to eliminate the invading pests and prevent future intrusion, damage and risk.
Remote Administration Tools (RATs), like their namesake, often cause great damage. RATs are potentially harmful software created with the intent of providing an undetected operator unauthorized access and control of a remote system. Unlike many desktop sharing and remote administration systems that have been developed for legitimate, authorized and legal use, "RAT" software is commonly used for malicious, illegal activity.
RAT software is generally installed covertly and used without the victim's knowledge. The malicious software is intentionally designed to hide its presence and operation from the victim and from the host computer’s security software, and in many cases may be fully undetectable. In order to install a RAT program, a RAT controller must somehow get his victim’s IP address, or infect the victim’s computer with a disguised RAT trojan file.
RAT controllers stalk their victims on the internet, frequently using social media channels and chat rooms where they share their malware with unsuspecting victims. They also disguise their files as popular programs, music or movie files and embed them in file sharing networks, Peer-to-Peer Software and free internet downloads. After the malware has been downloaded onto the victim’s computer it will clandestinely install itself and may also disable or delete antivirus and firewall software, rendering the victim and their computer completely defenseless.
Once the RAT has been installed, the RAT controller will use it to repeatedly stalk and harass their victims. RAT software gives the remote operator control of web cameras and microphones, access to files, computer/system control, ability to disable programs and functions, take screen shots and perform remote recording, ability to query/add/delete/modify files, record keystrokes, and manage other debilitating functions designed to prevent the victim from controlling their computer. Most RAT controllers are able to perform any task the victim could formerly do, without physical access to the machine.
In addition to taking illicit webcam pictures and recordings, RAT controllers also steal files such as images and videos located on the victim’s computer. RAT controllers may also post the private images and information stolen from their victims in forums where they sell and trade the files with other RAT controllers. They also frequently harass their victims by opening obscene files on their computers, playing loud sounds, and controlling computer hardware and software. RAT controllers may also engage in sextortion, terrorizing their victims by demanding they engage in additional compromising activity or risk public exposure.
Unfortunately, RAT software is readily available for purchase or free download and there are numerous forums and resources available for RAT controllers seeking advice on how to obtain and exploit their victims. So how do you eliminate any existing RATs and prevent them from infecting your computer in the future? It is best to place a blanket of protection over your computer that includes regularly scheduled Windows Updates, a well-maintained anti-virus program, a spyware blocking hosts file, anti-spyware scanners, and a software firewall to protect your computer from attacks.
In addition to protecting your computer, you can avoid engaging in behavior that puts you at risk. For starters, you should never open an email, accept chat requests or answer Skype calls from an unknown sender. Make sure any files or shareware that you download to your computer come from reputable and trusted sources. It is also a good idea to use the tightest privacy settings and make your social media profiles and pictures visible to only your group of friends and contacts. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep your web camera lens covered when you are not using it.
Although their functions may be similar, there are major differences between Remote Utilities and other legitimate remote desktop software and RATs. In a previous blog post, we spoke about the numerous privacy laws in the countries we serve and the importance of following these laws during remote employee monitoring sessions. Remote Utilities is a legitimate and legal remote desktop software that features functions that allow users of the remotely accessed computer to provide prior consent and notification to monitoring sessions. If a user of a remote computer does not wish to accept a Remote Utilities monitoring session they have the option to not be seen and/or heard by the remote operator. In addition to the prior notification, during every Remote Utilities “remote surveillance” session, the user at the remote computer will see a warning banner on their screen that states “Attention! Video surveillance is activated!”
At Usoris Systems, we take the security of our clients’ important data, files and information very seriously. Our products are developed to meet and exceed your needs for remote access, while maintaining security. As part of this commitment we will continue to provide products and services that ensure that your information remains confidential.
Image courtesy of chanpipet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net