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Understanding Malware: RATs (Remote Access Trojans)

RATs, Remote Access Trojans, are a malware tool that gives bad actors the ability to gain unauthorized access to a victim’s PC.

They mimic the behaviors of keylogger applications by allowing for an automated collection of everything from keystrokes, usernames and passwords, to screenshots, browser history, emails and more.

Unlike keyloggers, RATs give attackers unauthorized remote access to a victim’s machine!

Hackers may use this backdoor into a victim’s computer to:

  • Monitor user behavior

  • Change their computer settings

  • Browse and copy private files or other data

  • Use the victim’s computer bandwidth, (their internet connection) for criminal activity

  • And/or access connected systems.

Hackers like using RATs because they’re hard to stop and challenging to fully remove from a device. Once a computer is infected, a specially configured communication protocol is automatically set up that carries out the process, giving the bad actors full access to the machine.

Users are commonly infected with RAT malware by:

  • Clicking on suspicious links and email attachments!

    • Hackers may encourage victims to download an update or new software through a phishing message (or through smishing, vishing, etc).

    • They may also hide the malware within torrent files or other online downloads.

  • Social engineering victims into downloading malicious software or clicking a link.

  • Getting temporary physical access to a victim’s machine.

RATs are constantly evolving, and new versions and variants are discovered frequently. The malware has even been used in major attacks targeting the United States and countries around the world.

Well-known RAT malware attacks:

  • Gh0stRAT - In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with using the Gh0stRAT malware to target companies in the US and around the world to steal sensitive data and intellectual property from targeted organizations.

  • DarkComet RAT: in 2021, French law enforcement arrested a hacker suspected of using the DarkComet RAT to target French businesses and organizations to steal data, install additional malware, and monitor user activity.

  • BlackEnergy: In 2015, the BlackEnergy RAT was used in a cyberattack that caused a widespread power outage in Ukraine. The RAT was allegedly used to gain access to critical infrastructure systems and disrupt power generation and distribution.

What can you do to detect and remove a RAT from your system?

  • Use strong antivirus and anti-malware software to scan infected systems for signs of malicious activity. This can help identify and remove a RAT before it can cause further damage.

  • Monitor processes and your network for suspicious activity. Since a RAT could be disguised as a legitimate process, look for unusual names or processes consuming a lot of your system resources.

  • Disable remote access if you suspect your system has been infected. This cuts off the attacker’s ability to connect to its command and control server, removing the hacker’s ability to control the malware and may stop stolen data from being received by the bad actor.

To ensure that infected systems are properly secured and to minimize the risk of further attacks, it's often best to seek the assistance of a qualified cybersecurity professional.


Learn more about HacWare: MSP partners can decrease the likelihood that their end users will click on a phishing email by 60%. Let us educate your end users with automated, AI-driven phishing simulations and under three-minute micro-trainings to keep user attention and improve learning outcomes.

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