Advanced programs that surveil the data and vectors of users are most likely a form of a REMOTE ACCESS TROJAN (RAT). Such tools mimic the behavior of keyloggers, collecting usernames, passwords, email ids and a host of other sensitive information. They differ, however, through their ability to take screenshots and crawl the chat logs and browsing history of a computer. The purpose for aggregating this data is to force access to a digital resource through specially configured communication protocols—something keyloggers cannot do by themselves.
Said protocols are set up according to the how the computer is initially compromised or infected. In general, the sender of a Remote Access Trojan gains unauthorized access to a target device, enabling them to manipulate its settings. This unfettered access also includes the ability to copy files, monitor a user’s behavior, and exploit Internet connections for a range of criminal activities.
While it is possible for the sender to gain access to other connected systems through a Remote Access Trojan, the end goal is to establish a foothold in a specific computer or resource. Top security companies have become aware of Remote Access Trojans and their variants even as they evolve with new and successful techniques.
Remote Access Trojan (RAT) Installation and Behavior
The installation of Remote Access Trojans is possible through a number of methods, including specially crafted email and attachments, web links, downloads and torrent files. Once active on the host machine, it acts the same as any other malicious program would: Clever, inconspicuous and not easily detectable.
The number of known Remote Access Trojans is extensive and increases day by day. While potential infections are avoided through the use of antivirus (AV) software, most of these threats are covert by nature, utilizing a randomized filename to avoid outright detection. An attacker might even use social engineering tactics to get a user to install the software on the target machine.
Remote Access Trojan (RAT) vs Traditional Trojan Horse Virus
The Trojan Horse virus is one of the oldest threats in personal computing history. It, along with the Remote Access Trojan, baits its victims in a manner similar to the wooden horse that connived its way within the walls of Troy. The difference between the two is simple: Victory of the Trojan Horse depends solely upon local strategies, while the Remote Access Trojan draws upon resources and intelligence abroad. Hence, the latter is more versatile than its “wooden” predecessor.
The Remote Access Trojan is capable of collecting a huge amount of information on users who are using an infected device. Its discovery usually means that any personal information on an infected device has already been compromised. Users should immediately change their usernames, passwords and credentials for authentication from a clean computer, and monitor their financial accounts for suspicious activity.
Of course, precautionary measures work a bit differently. To avoid attacks, users should never open an email or unknown website. It is highly recommended that users install and use a reputable antivirus application to ensure that a Remote Access Trojan is unable to function properly.