What is a RAT?
A remote access trojan (RAT) is a type of malware that gives a cyberattacker remote access of a computer. Once the cyberattacker has gained control of the computer, they can use the infected machine for a litany of activities including viewing and downloading files, deleting files, editing or implanting data, logging keystrokes, taking screenshots, harvesting credentials, installing or removing software, installing ransomware, hijacking the microphone, hijacking the webcam, perpetuating distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, mining crypto, and more. RATs are exceptionally dangerous because they provide cyberattackers with a high level of control over a computer, allowing them to see and do everything that they want to. RATs are most often installed onto computers in the following ways:
Phishing. Phishing emails may include either malicious links or malicious attachments that can install a RAT onto a computer.
Piggybacking. RATs can piggyback seemingly legitimate user-requested downloads from malicious websites which may include be video games, torrent files, images, software applications, plug-ins, and more.
RATs may be difficult to detect on a computer, but the following are some signs that a computer may be infected, and the machine should be scanned:
Unrecognizable files. Files and programs appear that the user did not intentionally download.
Lag. RAT software that is running in the background may cause a computer to run abnormally slow.
Antivirus software malfunction. If an antivirus program continues to crash or is slow to respond, that may indicate an infection.
Webcam activation. If a webcam indicator comes on for no apparent reason, that may be a sign that a RAT has taken control of it.
Redirects. Website redirects or unresponsiveness are signs of a RAT infection.
The following tips can help to prevent RATs:
- Implement zero-trust principles to ensure that users only have necessary access permissions
- Use intrusions detection systems (IDS) to monitor user behavior
- Keep antivirus software up to date
- Implement security strategies focused on RAT attack vectors such as phishing, spear phishing, malware, and unsecured browsing
- Only download software from reliable sources
- Train staff members on cybersecurity threats and cyber hygiene
- Monitor network traffic for unusual activity
- Secure remote access by using secure gateways
- Apply filters to protect email applications
- Deploy multi-factor authentication
- Update operating systems, browsers, and other commonly used programs