A remote administration tool or RAT is software that gives somebody full control over tech devices from a remote location. Most often, this applies to desktop and laptop computers. However, there are also ways to do this from a mobile device.
In themselves, RATs are neither good nor bad things. They are there to extend the device’s functionality and are meant to facilitate better access for you. For example, if you needed access to your work computer while you were at home, you could use a RAT. That’s why they are built-in to most operating systems.
Unfortunately, threat actors take this technology to access your files, turn on your webcam, and even make changes to your devices.
Learn everything about RATs, including how to protect yourself against hackers who may try to use them against you below.
Who Uses RATs?
RATs have a large array of different legitimate uses. For example, a computer technician can use them to access your computer to remove something that may be causing problems on your device.
This is just one of the many times a RAT can come in handy. Whether you want access to a key file, need to remote erase your computer if it’s been lost or stolen, or just want to watch a few of the movies saved on your hard drive, they can be extremely useful.
Here are some of the other activities RATs can do:
- Create, delete, modify any file
- Execute commands including changing system settings
- Install software
- Control hardware including webcams and keyboards
- Harvest information including personal documents
- Take screenshots
Can I Use a RAT?
Absolutely. There are many great apps that you can use to take advantage of the benefits of remote administration tools.
Since Windows XP, every version of Windows has included a Remote Desktop Protocol to allow users to access their device remotely. Other notable software tools include:
- Chrome Remote Desktop
- Apple Remote Desktop
- TigerVNC for Linux
When RATs Go Wrong
As you can see from above, RATs are pretty powerful. This, unfortunately, is a double-edged sword that can come back and haunt you. If one of these tools falls into the wrong hands, and a hacker leverages access to your device, it can put you in serious risk.
Downloading one is easier than you realize. Hackers may disguise a RAT inside a legitimate-looking file. Once downloaded, it will act invisibly, and hackers can begin wreaking havoc to monitor your webcam, install malware, and steal your personal data.
Some of the most dangerous types of RATs include DarkComet, BlackShades, and NJRAT.
How to Avoid RATs
The best way to protect against a RAT is to prevent yourself from downloading one in the first place. These tips and tools will not only protect you against RATs but also other types of malware.
1. Use a VPN
A VPN or virtual private network encrypts your internet connection and masks your IP address. You’re likely thinking, “what is my IP address?” Your IP address is the unique identifier that can reveal your internet activity and your approximate location.
With RATs, hackers will use your IP address to connect your device. If your true IP address is concealed, it is extremely difficult for hackers to deploy these tools against you.
2. Watch what you click on and download
Since RATs are so often packaged inside email attachments, links, and other files, it’s easy to install them yourself unknowingly. That’s why, no matter who sends you a file or link, be sure to scan it first to know that it is safe.
3. Be Cautious Using P2P File-Sharing
This is not a lecture on the rights and wrongs of torrenting—that’s your call. But you have to be careful because many of these may contain more than you bargained—like a RAT packaged inside.
4. Use Comprehensive Security Software
Windows Defender is a great start. But you should also invest in some additional antimalware tools to further protect your data. The added benefit is that these will not just scan and remove malware but also flag any suspicious connections to your device.
The Bottom Line: Remote Administration Tools
Like any other software, remote administration tools or RATs are all about the person behind. For the average user, a RAT can give you more access to your device, creating all kinds of conveniences.
However, the same tools are incredibly dangerous if a hacker gets their hands on it. That’s why you must start integrating these security tools and strategies into your everyday device usage. Because just as much as you wouldn’t want a real-life rat running loose in your home, so too do you not want these RATs running unattended on your device.