There is no easy way to determine if you’re using a remote access trojan (RAT) infected PC or a clean PC. So knowing how to prevent remote access trojan attacks goes a long way in keeping your PC clean from a RAT malware infection.
So let’s address what a RAT attack is, why threat actors carry out RAT attacks, and how to prevent a RAT attack.
What Is a Remote Access Trojan?
A remote access trojan is a type of malware that gives an attacker remote control over your computer.
With RATs, attackers can do anything they please on your machine, including viewing and downloading files, taking screenshots, logging keystrokes, stealing passwords, and even sending commands to your computer to execute specific actions.
Since RATs provide attackers with virtually total control over infected machines, threat actors use them for malicious activities such as espionage, financial theft, and cyber crime.
Why Hackers Carry Out Remote Access Trojan Attacks
An attacker can get full administrative control of the target computer with the help of a remote access trojan program. As a result, the attacker can easily:
- Install ransomware or other malware programs on your computer.
- Read, download, delete, edit or implant data on your system.
- Take control of your webcam and microphone.
- Monitor your online activities by leveraging a keylogger.
- Steal confidential information such as social security numbers, usernames, passwords, and credit card information.
- Take screenshots of your computer screen remotely.
- Perpetuate distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by installing RAT on multiple PCs and using those PCs to flood a target server with fake traffic.
These days, threat actors are also using RATs for crypto mining. As a remote access trojan program can disguise itself as a legitimate program, it is easily installed on your computer without your knowledge.
How Does a RAT Get Installed on a PC?
So how does a RAT get installed on a PC? Like any other malware program, a remote access trojan can get into your PC in many ways.
Remote access trojans can piggyback seemingly legitimate user-requested downloads from malicious websites, such as video games, software applications, images, torrent files, plug-ins, etc.
Crafted email attachments, phishing emails, and web links on malicious websites can also send a RAT program to your PC.
The common, long-established remote access trojans include but are not limited to Back Orifice, Poison-Ivy, SubSeven, and Havex.
How to Prevent Remote Access Trojan Attacks
Here are some proven ways to protect from remote access trojan attacks.
1. Install an Anti-Malware Software Program
While RATs can be difficult to detect and remove, one of the best ways to protect against them is to install an anti-malware software program.
Anti-malware programs are designed to detect and remove malicious software, including RATs.
Installing an anti-malware program can help keep your computer safe from RATs and other malicious software.
In addition, you should also make sure to keep your anti-malware program up-to-date, as new threats are constantly emerging.
2. Harden Access Control
One of the most effective ways to prevent a RAT attack is to harden access control. This makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to access networks and systems.
For example, strong authentication measures, such as two-factor authentication and stricter firewall configurations, can help ensure that only authorized users have access to the device and data. Doing so will reduce the damage a RAT infection can cause.
3. Implement Least Privilege
When it comes to RAT prevention, one of the essential principles to follow is the principle of least privilege (POLP).
Put simply, this principle states that users should only have the bare minimum amount of access necessary to perform their job duties. This includes both permissions and privileges.
By strictly enforcing the principle of least privilege, organizations can significantly reduce the chances of a RAT taking full control of a PC.
Also, if the principle of least privilege is followed correctly, there will be a restriction on what a RAT attacker can do to a PC.
4. Monitor Unusual Behavior of Applications
RATs typically connect to a remote server to receive commands from the attacker. As a result, you may see unusual network activity when a RAT is present on your system.
So, one way to help prevent RAT infections is to monitor the behavior of applications on your system.
For example, you may see applications connecting to unfamiliar IP addresses or ports not generally used by that application. You may also see applications transferring large amounts of data when they usually don’t transfer much data.
Monitoring for these kinds of unusual behaviors can help you detect RATs before they can do any damage.
Just open Task Manger on your Windows PC or Activity Monitor on your Mac to check if any application is running without you initiating it.
5. Use an Intrusion Detection System
You should continuously monitor your network traffic with the help of a reliable intrusion detection system (IDS).
Two key types of intrusion detection systems include:
- A host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) that is installed on a specific device.
- A network-based intrusion detection system (NIDS) that tracks network traffic in real-time
Using both types of intrusion detection systems will create a security information and event management (SIEM) system that can block any software intrusion that slips past your anti-malware and firewall.
6. Update OS, Browser, and Other Commonly Used Software
Threat actors often exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems and outdated software to gain access to a victim’s device.
By keeping your operating system, web browser, and other commonly used programs up to date, you can help close any potential security holes that attackers can use to infect your PC with a RAT.
You should also install any security updates for your antivirus and firewall software as soon as they are available.
7. Adopt Zero-Trust Model
Zero-trust security model enforces strict identification and authentication to access a network.
The principles of zero-trust models include continuous monitoring and validations, the least privileges to users and devices, strict control on device access, and blockage of lateral movement.
So adopting a zero-trust model can help you prevent a RAT attack. This is because RAT attacks often employ lateral movement to infect other devices on the network and get access to sensitive data.
8. Go through Cybersecurity Training
Suspicious links and malicious websites are a leading cause of malware distribution.
If you’re not expecting it, never open an email attachment. And you should always download software programs, images, and video games from original websites.
Also, you should go through cybersecurity training regularly to learn about the latest techniques to spot malware threats.
Getting employees trained on the best cybersecurity practices to avoid phishing and social engineering attacks can help an organization prevent a RAT infection.
When it comes to malware infection, prevention is better than cure. And security awareness training prepares individuals and organizations to prevent RAT attacks.
Smell a Rat to Stay Safe
A remote access trojan, like any other malware, can only cause damage if installed on your PC. So try to protect your PC from getting infected. Following the tips mentioned above can help you prevent remote access trojan attacks.