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What Is a Rootkit and How to Remove it

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Introduction

A rootkit is a piece of malicious software designed to provide someone unauthorized access to a computer or other piece of software. Rootkits are difficult to spot and might hide their presence on a compromised system. Rootkit malware is used by hackers to remotely access the computer, control it, and steal data.

When rootkits are purchased on the dark web, they can be used in phishing scams or as a social engineering ploy to persuade victims to install them on their computers, granting remote attackers administrator access to the system. This article covers detailed knowledge of Rootkit.

 

What does a rootkit do?

Rootkits enable malicious software to hide on your device. After a rootkit attack, the operating system is given remote admin access while remaining undetected.

A rootkit can change anything an administrator can change on the computer system because its goal is to obtain admin-level, privileged access.

Here is a brief list of what a rootkit can change or do.

 

  • Conceal Malware

Rootkits conceal other forms of malware on the device and make their removal more challenging.

 

  • Gain Remote Access

Rootkits give you undetectable remote access to the operating system.

 

  • Tamper with or Deactivate Security Programs

Some rootkits can hide from the computer’s security programs or disable them entirely, making it challenging to find and eliminate the malware.

 

  • Create a Permanent “Backdoor”

Some rootkits may create a cybersecurity backdoor into the system, which may stay open so the hacker can re-enter later.

 

Signs of a Rootkit Attack

The following red flags on the device could mean you have a rootkit:

 

  • Your system is acting strangely

Rootkits give hackers access to the computer’s operating system. A rootkit hacker may be to blame if the computer is acting strangely.

 

  • Change in Settings

Remote access with a rootkit installed can provide someone access to change the configurations and settings. Something may be cause for concern if it seems different.

 

  • Web Pages/Network Activities Intermittent

It might be more than just a service outage if the internet connection becomes more intermittent than usual. The internet connection may become slower if a hacker uses a rootkit to send or receive a large amount of data from the computer.

 

How Does Rootkit Work?

A rootkit is somewhat comparable to any other form of malware. To steal, disrupt, harm finances, or extort money, it also has its trigger, installation, and self-replication mechanisms.

Most rootkits operate by sneaking into the operating system and exploiting flaws therein. After being installed, they can conceal other malicious software, turn off security measures, or seize total control of the computer.

Droppers and loaders are two programs that work together to install rootkit malware on victim computers.

Once downloaded, the dropper would not automatically begin to run. It requires user activation. To improve the chance that the user will launch the malware, hackers will try to conceal it or attach it to a trustworthy executable file. The loader installs the rootkit, which awakens when the dropper is executed and exploits system flaws.

 

Types of Rootkits

Security professionals categorize rootkits into six groups based on how and where they infect the computer.

 

  • User-mode Rootkits

User-mode rootkits infect the administrator account of the operating system, obtaining the high-level access necessary to modify the security settings on the computer while hiding themselves and any additional malware they employ.

 

  • Kernel-mode Rootkits

Hackers developed kernel-mode rootkits in response to kernel-level rootkit scanners. They share the computer’s level with the operating system, which compromises the OS.

 

  • Hybrid Rootkits

Some of the components in hybrid rootkits are located at the user level, and some are in the kernel. This enables a hybrid rootkit to combine the greater stealth of its kernel-dwelling counterparts with the stability of user-mode rootkits. Online thieves use one of the most popular types of user-kernel hybrid rootkits.

 

  • Firmware Rootkits

A type of low-level software called firmware is used to control computer hardware. Some rootkits can lurk inside your computer’s firmware when it is turned off. A firmware rootkit may reinstall itself and resume operations when you turn it back on.

A firmware rootkit will reactivate itself the moment your computer is powered on if a rootkit scanner detects and disables it while it is active. Rootkits in firmware are notoriously difficult to remove from computers.

 

  • Bootkits

A kernel-mode rootkit variation called bootkits infects the MBR of the machine. Bootkits are also referred to as bootloader rootkits. The bootkit also loads whenever the machine examines its MBR.

Since bootkits do not exist in the OS, anti-malware programs have trouble detecting them, just like all kernel-mode rootkits. The Secure Boot feature in Windows 8 and 10 makes bootkits obsolete, which is a blessing.

 

  • Virtual Rootkits

A virtual machine is a computer hosted on a physical computer and emulates another computer using the software. Virtual machines can run many operating systems on a single computer and test software in a safe environment.

 

How to find a Rootkit

The methods listed below may help you find the rootkit if you think the computer has been infected:

 

  • Signature Scanning

Computers use numbers to perform tasks. The collection of integers that serve as a software’s representation in computer-speak is known as its signature. You can run a scan on the computer to check if any known rootkit signatures are present.

 

  • Memory Dump Analysis

When the Windows computer crashes, a memory dump, commonly referred to as a crash dump, is produced. A knowledgeable technician can examine this file to determine the cause of the crash and whether a rootkit was involved.

 

  • System Memory Search

Check the system memory of your computer to discover if anything is faulty. Track all imported library calls from DLLs and look for any indications of invoked processes at all ingress (access) points during the search. Some might be hooked or diverted to different purposes.

 

Tips for Preventing a Rootkit Attack

Even though rootkit attacks are challenging to spot, an organization can develop its defense strategy in the following ways:

 

  • Use Strong Antivirus and Antimalware Software

Rootkit detection typically requires specialized antimalware add-ons or dedicated antirootkit scanner software.

 

  • Keep Software up to Date

Users of rootkits continuously scan operating systems and other systems for security flaws. Due to this, OS and system software companies rapidly release security updates to fix any flaws they find in their products. IT should update the software immediately whenever a new release is released as a best practice.

 

  • Monitor the Network

If there is an abnormally high level of activity at any point along the network, if network nodes start going offline unexpectedly, or if there is any other indication of network activity that can be interpreted as an anomaly, network monitoring, and observability software can immediately alert IT.

 

  • Analyze Behavior

Rootkit threats can be reduced by businesses that create robust security permission policies and continuously check for compliance.

 

Rootkit Detection and Removal

Although businesses can take efforts to fix a compromised system, there is a high risk of hostile action once a rootkit penetrates a system.

Rootkit removal can be challenging, particularly for rootkits embedded into firmware, operating system kernels, or boot sectors of storage devices. While some anti-rootkit programs can identify and remove some rootkits, removing this kind of malware can be challenging.

Reinstalling the OS is one method of removing a rootkit, which frequently succeeds. A secure OS must run on a clean system to access the infected storage device and remove bootloader rootkits.

A memory rootkit infection can be cleared by rebooting the system, but the infection’s root cause may still need to be removed. This source could be connected to command-and-control networks on the local network or the public internet.

 

Conclusion

The primary function of rootkits is to effectively mask malware payloads and maintain their privileged existence on the system. As a result, a rootkit will hide files, malware processes, injected modules, registry keys, user accounts, or even system registries that run on system boot.

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