Imagine someone else controlling your computer without your permission. How would you feel about a stranger looking through your personal photos or important financial information? How about someone watching you through your camera or listening to you through your microphone? Do such things really happen or is it all the stuff of movies? Frighteningly these kinds of things are all too real and do happen. All of this and more can take place through a type of malware called a Remote Access Trojan.
I am going to tell you what a Remote Access Trojan is and what you can do to make yourself safer.
What Is a Remote Access Trojan?
Remote Access Trojans gives a hacker complete access your system. They were originally used to prank others back in the 90s. As always the bad guys began using them for their own advantage. They can access your files and even download malware to your system. Malware is short for malicious software. It’s purpose could be to inconvenience you, steal your data, destroy your data, or a number of other nefarious things. Remote Access Trojans use your access permissions to get into your system. They are usually attached to files that appear to be legitimate. They imitate trustworthy remote access apps. Once in they don’t appear as active programs or running processes. Part of what makes them so dangerous is how sneaky they are. Another scary fact is they can infect Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android.
Once in they have free reign. They can do anything from stealing your login information to activating your camera. They can activate your microphone to listen in on you. Even your photos and personal files aren’t safe. They can even download illegal information to your computer.
How to Protect Yourself
If all of this sounds scary then good. I am not overstating the damage that this type of malware can do. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to protect yourself.
- Beware downloading anything from unreliable sources.
- Don’t open suspicious email attachments. The safest policy is to never open an attachment from an unknown sender and if the attachment is coming from a friend to check with them before opening it.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links.
- Keep your operating system and apps updated.
- Make sure you have an antivirus installed and running. Remember to keep your virus definitions updated.
- Be aware that illegal downloads such as pirated software and media could contain a Remote Access Trojan. Such downloads can be risky.
- Watch out for unknown programs installed on your system.
These are some very basic steps but they will go a long way in protecting you.
What if you are already infected with a Remote Access Trojan?
- Reboot into Safe Mode and run a full virus scan.
- While still in Safe Mode run a scan with a good on demand scanner. Sophos is a free one that you can download here.
- As a last resort you may need to reinstall Windows or factory reset your device.
- Change your passwords.
- Let your bank know about the breach and monitor your account for suspicious transactions.
- Check your credit report to see if there are any new accounts listed.
Best Practices to Protect Yourself From Malware
There are a lot of threats out there. Viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, adware, spyware, and more abound. Here are some things that you can do to make yourself safer.
- Make sure your data is regularly backed up.
- Make sure you have a good antivirus and keep it’s definitions up to date.
- Use strong passwords and two factor authentication.
- Change your passwords periodically.
- Keep your operating system on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone updated.
- Keep your apps updated.
- Make sure Windows Firewall is enabled.
- Make sure the firewall on your router is enabled.
- Only use public WiFi if you are running a VPN.
- Install an ad blocking extension in your browser. I recommend uBlock Origin. Downloads are available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Since Edge is Chromium based the Chrome version of uBlock Origin should work for it.
- Remove inactive user accounts.
- In Windows make sure User Account Control is enabled.
- In Windows make sure Controlled Folder Access is on.
- On your mobile device stick with the official Google or Apple app stores.
- Pay attention to app permissions.
- Be cautious about following links in text messages.
- Don’t trust random popups that offer software to download.
Now you know what a Remote Access Trojan is and what you can do about it. The internet is an amazing place full of information, social media, games, and more. Unfortunately the predatory among us are more than happy to take advantage of the unprepared. You can be prepared by keeping backups of your data and following the above tips. By doing so you will be far more protected and prepared for Remote Access Trojans and other malware out there.