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What is RAT Malware, and why is it so dangerous?



  A spooky white rat on a black background
Chichinkin / Shutterstock

A remote access trojan (RAT) is a type of malware that allows hackers to monitor and control the computer or network. But how does a RAT work, why do hackers use them, and how do you avoid them?

RAT files give hackers remote access to your computer

If you ever have to call technical support for a computer, then probably the magic of remote access is familiar. When remote access is enabled, authorized computers and servers can control everything that happens on the computer. They can open documents, download software and even move the cursor around the screen in real time.

A RAT is a type of malware that is very similar to legitimate remote access programs. The main difference is of course that RAT units are installed on a computer without the user's knowledge. Most legitimate remote access programs are made for technical support and file sharing, while RATs are made for spying, cutting or destroying computers.

Like most malicious programs, RATs piggyback on legitimate images. Hackers can attach a RAT to a document in an email message, or within a large program, such as a video game. Ads and fake web pages may also contain RAT, but most web browsers prevent automatic download from websites or notify you when a site is insecure.

Unlike some malicious programs and viruses, it can be difficult to tell when you have downloaded a RAT. Generally, a RAT will not slow down your computer, and hackers will not always go away by deleting your files or scrolling the cursor around the screen. In some cases, users of a RAT are infected for several years without noticing any error. But why is RAT so secretive? And how are they useful for hackers? RATS works best when they go unnoticed

Most computer viruses are made for a single purpose. Keyloggers automatically record everything you type, ransomware limits access to your computer or its files until you pay a fee, and adware dumps doubtful ads on your computer for profit.

But RAT is special. They give hackers complete, anonymous control over infected computers. As you can imagine, a hacker with a RAT can do just about anything ̵

1; as long as the goal doesn't smell a RAT.

  A huckhacker in front of his computer
Maxim Apryatin / Shutterstock

In In most cases, RAT is used as a spyware. A money-hungry (or almost frightening) hacker can use a RAT to get keystrokes and files from an infected computer. These keystrokes and files can include bank information, passwords, sensitive photos, or private conversations. In addition, hackers can use RAT to enable a computer's webcam or microphone discreetly. The idea of ​​being spied on by some anonymous nerd is quite upset, but it is a mild offense compared to what some hackers do with RAT.

Because RATs provide hackers with administrative access to infected computers, they can change or download any files at a glance. This means that a hacker with a RAT can wipe the hard drive, download illegal content from the Internet through the computer, or place additional malware on your computer. Hackers can also control your computer remotely to perform embarrassing or illegal acts online in your name or use your home network as a proxy server to commit crimes anonymously.

An attacker can also use a RAT to take control of a home network and create a botnet. Basically, a botnet allows a hacker to utilize your computer resources for super-rich (and often illegal) tasks, such as DDOS attacks, Bitcoin mining, file management, and drying. Sometimes this technology is used by hacker groups for cybercrime and cyber war. A botnet consisting of thousands of computers can produce a lot of bitcoin, or take down large networks (or even a whole country) through DDOS attacks.

Don't worry; RAT files are easy to avoid

If you want to avoid RAT files, do not load files from sources that you cannot trust. You should not open e-mail attachments from strangers (or potential employers). You should not download games or software from funky websites, and you should not torrent files if they are not from a reliable source. Keep your browser and operating system up to date with security patches as well.

  Businessman wearing a mask on a computer
Elnur / Shutterstock

Of course, you should also activate your antivirus program. Windows Defender is included in your computer (and it is honestly a good antivirus program), but if you feel the need for some extra security, you can download a commercial antivirus program like Kaspersky or Malwarebytes.

RELATED: What is the best antivirus program for Windows 10? (Is Windows Defender good enough?)

Use Anti-Virus to find and eradicate RAT

There is an overwhelming chance that your computer is not infected by a RAT. If you have not noticed any strange activity on your computer or your identity has recently stolen, you are sure to be safe. It is said that it does not hurt to check your computer for RAT every time and for a while.

Since most hackers use well-known RAT (instead of developing their own), antivirus software is the best (and easiest) way to find and remove RAT from your computer. Kaspersky or Malwarebytes has an extensive, ever-growing database of RAT, so you don't have to worry about your antivirus software being outdated or half-baked.

If you have run antivirus, but you are still paranoid that there is a RAT on your computer, then you can always format your computer. This is a drastic measure but has a 100% success rate – beyond exotic, highly specialized malware that can be downloaded into the computer's UEFI firmware. New RATs that cannot be detected by antivirus software take a lot of time to create, and they are usually reserved for use by large companies, famous people, government officials, and millionaires.

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