A rootkit is a software, a malicious one to be specific. Rootkits are programs that help shady people access a device’s or computer’s system destined only for authorized users only. These programs are often bundled together.
Therefore, rootkits grant access to certain parts of a network or system where they have no authorization. Rootkits are especially dangerous because they ‘kidnap’ the device, and they let people running them take over the gadget or computer.
With a rootkit, users can erase files, as well as obtain new ones or modify the already existing ones. They can also access system components and processes. This is why rootkits are widely considered dangerous software in the cybersecurity industry.
Hackers are very adept in using rootkits. The word “root” means a computer’s administrative privileges, which are the ones that hackers often target to take over a device or an entire system.
Are they Malware?
Whether rootkits are malware or not, is still up for debate. For example, there are law enforcement agencies that use them to fight crime, and even parents implement them to monitor their children’s computer activity closely. They have office applications as well.
Sadly, rootkits have received virtually all of their attention because of their involvement in hacking scandals and its use to violate systems.
In fact, most rootkits can be installed in a specific system via a Trojan horse or a computer virus. These trick the user into doing it without even knowing. However, the software, per se, should not be considered malware.
How do they Spread?
Rootkits effectively work as spyware tools for hackers and cybercriminals. They can’t spread by themselves as regular worms do. The most obvious method they have to multiply is tricking the users into installing it themselves by the irresponsible management of cybersecurity.
Rootkits can also be used to create botnets. They are significant groups of infected files that are often implemented to mine cryptocurrencies without authorization, perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and other criminal activity.
Hackers often try to scare users into installing malware in their systems, usually by showing “security alerts” saying that the device has been infected and that action is needed. This is found in sites and services of dubious nature.
Attachments found in the spam email or even in instant messaging apps can also lead users to accidentally download rootkits, enabling hackers and cybercriminals to take control of the device without any superior administrator order that can stop it.
How do I Detect a Rootkit?
You can quickly detect viruses and spyware in your device thanks to advanced software. However, there is still no clear-cut solution to detect rootkits, at least not as easily. However, some things can be done.
Memory scans can search the system for rootkits, but only a few of them are automated. And even automated ones can’t detect rootkits in a general way: they are designed to go after a particular rootkit.
To detect a rootkit, you should carefully look at your computer’s behaviour over a specific period. Any suspicious behavior may mean your online integrity and security has been compromised by the presence of this software.
The industry’s recommendation is to perform a system rebuild if you have been the victim of an installed rootkit because there is no way to know how many files were compromised, or if you managed to delete every piece.
How do I Protect Myself against Rootkits?
It is very tedious to remove the rootkit from a given device, so the best way is to stay protected while browsing the web. Doing it would mean reformatting the computer, and that may be inconvenient for some reasons, mainly time and the possible loss of data.
Using a VPN to protect yourself is a wise choice. Since VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) can encrypt your shared content and your online identity, hackers trying to install rootkits in your device will most likely fail.
If you want a reliable, trustworthy VPN brand, choose a paid one, such as IPBurger VPN. It is a perfect example of how robust encryption and responsible data management can help you fend off hackers trying to gain access to your administrative privileges via rootkit installation.
How do I Remove Them?
Since rootkits can help cybercriminals take control of any given device, they are not easy to remove. One can use an antivirus and/ or anti-malware software that can be used against specific rootkits, but they don’t work with every one of them: some are very complex and especially hard to eradicate.
In some cases, the user needs to perform complex memory dump analysis to find and remove some rootkits. These software applications tend to hide very well among your files or systems.
Also, there are precise anti-rootkits software presentations, designed to fight and remove specific ones.
How do I Avoid them?
Browsing the web responsibly is the best way to avoid rootkits. Don’t click or download any attachments for unknown or untrustworthy sites, ignore or delete spam email, and generally think before you click when you sit down in front of a computer.
Also, you should use antivirus software with a proven track record of success. Anti-malware software can work, as well, as they can put firewalls that block unauthorized network connections.