Rootkit: A Digital Assassin in Hiding

Trapped? Got your data compromised even after installing numerous antivirus and antimalware programs? Did they counter the intruder? What if your security software couldn’t even detect the culprit? Yes, it is possible because there are other threats, far more devious and manipulative than viruses and malware, they are called ‘Rootkits’.

Rootkits are computer programs, which disguise themselves as essential programs in the operating system and provide administrator-level accesses to attackers. The term ‘root’ was derived from UNIX esque privileged accounts and ‘kit’ refers to a group of tools. Rootkits also hide other malicious files by providing them cover from antivirus software.


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How Do Rootkits Hide Their Presence?

Rootkit hides its presence in any machine by using various methods like utilizing some base layers of the operating system i.e. Application Program Interface (API), function redirection or employing non-documented functions. It may also behave like a legit application in the operating system, while providing full access of your system to attackers. After gaining access, an attacker can run executable files and manipulate system configuration on host computer.


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Detection of Rootkits:

Searching manually for rootkits in a computer is like looking for a needle in haystack. Due to their camouflaging property, most of the antivirus and antimalware fail to detect or quarantine rootkits. However, it is also found that some of the high level and standardized antimalware are unable to detect and neutralize the same. Other than these programs, one could also know if their computer is infected through its behavior. Unusual changes in Windows settings, crawling internet speed, frequent lags and system crashes can be indicative of rootkit activity on your system.


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Rootkits have a better chance of being diagnosed when they are in user mode. But once they get into the OS kernel, the chances of detection get slim. OS Kernel is the basic platform that runs the operating system and antivirus. Therefore, once the malicious software gets inside the Kernel Mode it becomes even more difficult for you to recover anything.

The operating system becomes no more trustworthy when rootkit approaches kernel mode. Here, rootkit gains admin level privileges and can control the Master Boot Records and can set itself to launch at system boot. Once the rootkit reaches its ‘Bootkit’ stage, even formatting your hard disk won’t help.


 When it comes to rootkits, prevention is better than cure. Most security software fail to even detect a rootkit, so there is no point in buying them. The best way to be secured is to reanalyze your browsing and downloading habits. However, rootkit developers make their bread and butter by analyzing and programming malware based on your browsing habits. Hence, one needs to be extremely careful when using the internet.

Altogether, rootkits are the worst type of infections that your computer could catch. Refrain from visiting insecure websites and downloading content from suspicious sources would be the best practice for protection. Make sure that you protect your computer with a trusted antimalware and antivirus program to counter such threats.

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