Remote Access Trojans (RATs) : The world of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, and attackers are always coming up with new ways to gain access to sensitive data. One of the most dangerous types of malware that organizations face today is the Remote Access Trojan (RAT).
RATs are stealthy attackers that provide attackers with remote access and control over compromised systems, giving them the ability to execute a range of malicious activities.
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How Does a Remote Access Trojan Work?
RATs can infect computers like any other type of malware. They might be attached to an email, be hosted on a malicious website, or exploit a vulnerability in an unpatched machine.
A RAT is designed to allow an attacker to remotely control a computer similar to how the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and TeamViewer can be used for remote access or system administration.
The RAT will set up a command and control (C2) channel with the attacker’s server over which commands can be sent to the RAT, and data can be sent back.
RATs commonly have a set of built-in commands and have methods for hiding their C2 traffic from detection.
RATs may be bundled with additional functionality or designed in a modular fashion to provide additional capabilities as needed.
For example, an attacker may gain a foothold using a RAT and, after exploring the infected system using the RAT, may decide that they want to install a keylogger on the infected machine.
The RAT may have this functionality built-in, may be designed to download and add a keylogger module as needed, or may download and launch an independent keylogger.
How Attackers Target System
Different attacks require different levels of access to a target system, and the amount of access that an attacker gains determines what they can accomplish during a cyberattack. A RAT is dangerous because it provides an attacker with a very high level of access and control over a compromised system.
Most RATs are designed to provide the same level of functionality as legitimate remote system administration tools, meaning that an attacker can see and do whatever they want on an infected machine.
RATs also lack the same limitations of system administration tools and may include the ability to exploit vulnerabilities and gain additional privileges on an infected system to help achieve the attacker’s goals.
Due to the fact that an attacker has a high level of control over the infected computer and its activities, this allows them to achieve almost any objective on the infected system and to download and deploy additional functionality as needed to achieve their goals.
Remote Access Trojan Variants
Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are a type of malware that can take on many different forms and variations. Some of the most common RAT variants include:
- DarkComet: A RAT that was originally created as a remote administration tool but has been widely used by cybercriminals for malicious purposes. DarkComet has many built-in features, including the ability to take screenshots, record keystrokes, and hijack webcams.
- Poison Ivy: A RAT that is known for its stealth capabilities and the ability to bypass security measures. Poison Ivy has been used in many high-profile attacks and can be controlled remotely via a graphical user interface.
- NetWire: A RAT that is commonly used in phishing attacks and has been known to target financial institutions. NetWire is designed to evade detection and can steal sensitive information, including login credentials and credit card numbers.
- PlugX: A RAT that is often used in targeted attacks against organizations and government agencies. PlugX can be used to control infected systems remotely, steal data, and install additional malware.
- NanoCore: A RAT that is commonly distributed via spam emails and can be used to steal sensitive information, including login credentials and banking information. NanoCore has many built-in features, including the ability to log keystrokes, take screenshots, and download additional malware.
These are just a few examples of the many different RAT variants that are currently in use by cybercriminals. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest threats and to take steps to protect your systems and data against these types of attacks.
How to Protect Against a Remote Access Trojan
RATs are designed to hide themselves on infected machines, providing secret access to an attacker. They often accomplish this by piggybacking malicious functionality on a seemingly legitimate application.
The stealthiness of RATs can make them difficult to protect against. Some methods to detect and minimize the impact of RATs include:
- Focus on Infection Vectors: RATs, like any malware, are only a danger if they are installed and executed on a target computer. Deploying anti-phishing and secure browsing solutions and regularly patching systems can reduce the risk of RATs by making it more difficult for them to infect a computer in the first place.
- Look for Abnormal Behavior: RATs are trojans that commonly masquerade as legitimate applications and may be composed of malicious functionality added to a real application. Monitor applications for abnormal behavior, such as notepad.exe generating network traffic.
- Monitor Network Traffic: RATs enable an attacker to remotely control an infected computer over the network, sending it commands and receiving the results. Look for anomalous network traffic that may be associated with these communications.
- Implement Least Privilege: The principle of least privilege states that users, applications, systems, etc.
attacker to gain high levels of access and control over a compromised system. RATs can be installed on a target computer through various infection vectors, including email attachments, malicious websites, or exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities.
To protect against RAT infections, organizations should focus on prevention by deploying anti-phishing and secure browsing solutions, regularly patching systems, monitoring applications for abnormal behavior, implementing least privilege, and deploying multi-factor authentication.
However, preventing RAT infections requires solutions that can identify and block malware before it gains access to an organization’s systems.
Check Point Harmony Endpoint provides comprehensive protection against RATs by preventing common infection vectors, monitoring applications for suspicious behavior, and analyzing network traffic for signs of C2 communications.
Protecting against RATs is critical to maintaining the security and privacy of an organization’s sensitive data and preventing financial losses.