What Is A Rootkit?

A rootkit is a group of malicious computer software that usually gains access to computers or areas that is not allowed while not being detected or hiding its presence. It comes from the two words root and kit which means a collection of tools that allows a high-level or administrative access to the computer or the network itself. Nowadays, rootkits are associated with the other malware threats like worms, viruses, spyware, and Trojans which generally conceals their presence without the knowledge of the users of the computer or the network.

A rootkit is a software program that can be used to get to the root of the computer which allows admin access to the computer and controls it accordingly. It was originally developed as a legitimate software program for the software developers to have a backdoor access to their specific software which allows them to fix it when a problem arises. Today, however, this specific software kit is now being used by the hackers around the world to gain control of the unsuspecting computer owners and steal important information and data from them.

Rootkits can get entry or access to different computers or the computer network in a different number of ways. One of the most popular ways is by phishing and using social engineering attacks. Once access is gained by the hacker, they will be able to remotely access it and perform the specific task intended and it could be either steal the user’s data or crash the computer or network. Once the rootkit installs itself on the computer or network it will turn on at the same as the computer and it will be able to track all the processes done on it, like scan the data, install malware or other destructible programs and hijack the computer’s data.

Rootkits can be one of the most difficult to detect, unlike the other malware programs. It is able to hide its own processes from the user and it also does the same for the other malware it comes with. When detected, it needs to be removed and a powerful and excellent antivirus and a rootkit scanner and remover. Anti-malware programs in the market sometimes experience difficulty in detecting these types of programs; a computer user needs to get the updated antivirus programs available in the market.

How Rootkits Spread

A rootkit is the same as the other programs that need to be run first before it can be installed in a computer. It is usually composed of three different components: the rootkit, dropper, and the loader. The loader is the one responsible for loading programs; it is the one that places the program into the computer’s memory and prepares it for execution accordingly. The dropper is the program that is in charge of installing the rootkit. This program usually comes as an attachment to phishing emails or as a suspicious download from a random website. The dropper can be a PDF or word document which is used to start the installation of the rootkit once the file is opened, once done it will be too late. There are instances that a PDF or word document is used for a rootkit infection. Hackers nowadays are using ingenious ways to hide the malware from unsuspecting users. Different companies have used rootkits on their CD’s and computers that they have sold in the market, and the users have found that these manipulative methods are invasive and unethical and can also be considered as a cyber-security threat for the unsuspecting users and it can be used by hackers for other criminal activities such as steal data and crash the computers.

How To Avoid & Fix Rootkits

Rootkits can penetrate computer or networks when it piggybacks with software you have bought or when it comes with a virus from a malicious website. The user’s computer needs to be patched such as the OS, applications and have the updated antivirus programs. Make sure to not accept malicious files or email file attachments from random sources and always be careful when installing even trusted software and read the user license agreements. Static analysis can be used to detect rootkits. They can scan applications to check for threats which include the hidden backdoors.

Once a computer or network is infected with a rootkit there are usually signs that can be observed by a user. It usually includes antivirus programs to stop functioning, the computer settings are changing independently and the background images or other items in the taskbar may disappear or change for no reason. The slowing of the system’s overall performance can be detected.

A rootkit can be removed but it proves to be one of the difficult malware programs to remove from a computer, once infected. Back up all the important data as the rootkit program usually have a built-in defensive process which can be harmful to your computer and it might even crash the computer rendering it completely unusable. The rootkit won’t be able to infect a previously clean file or image.

Boot up the computer in safe mode with networking, there are different rootkit software that prohibits the installation of a security product or remove it. When in safe mode, the computer limits the access of the rootkit software. A rootkit scanner can be used to scan its presence in a computer. Multiple tools can be used for a more effective way of scanning them. The following scanners can be used UnHackMe, Kaspersky TDSS Killer, and the Comodo Antivirus. Malwarebytes Antirootkit is also effective in scanning and removing rootkit programs and it comes with a helpful feature that fixes the damage done to the computer.

There are instances a hardware rootkit infection has occurred and the removal process will not be able to clean it up. This calls for the best option which is to completely wipe the data and reinstalling the OS from scratch. Make sure to backup important files and documents before formatting and cleaning the computer.

Beware of the phishing attempts and keep the software updated at all times, by using a good antivirus it helps and prevents rootkits from penetrating your computer or network and a traffic filtering solution will also prevent different malicious malware and threats to enter your system.