How to Prevent a Rootkit Attack?

Rootkit attack is one of the most dangerous cyber threats in existence today. A rootkit is a type of malicious software program, attackers use to gain root-level, privileged, unrestricted, and permanent access to a computer and/or network. Rootkits are stubborn threats designed to be stealthily burrowed deep in the computer and remain undetected by security software and antivirus programs. In this article, we delve into how to detect rootkits and protect your business against rootkit attacks.

How do Rootkits Work?

To understand how to detect rootkits and protect your systems and network against them, you need to know how they work.

Step 1: Infection of the Target System 

The first step in a rootkit attack is the installation of the rootkit on the target system. They typically use one of the following methods to install the malware:

  • Phishing/ Spear phishing emails coax the user to download an attachment/ click a link that installs rootkit in the background without the user’s knowledge.
  • Fake software/ applications download: The seemingly legitimate software/ application tricks the user into downloading rootkit.
  • Drive-by-Downloads: In some cases, just visiting a website with poor web security could install a rootkit onto the system.
  • Malvertising: Attackers design ads containing malware to install rootkit when clicked.
  • Baiting: The attacker leaves a USB stick with a rootkit lying in public. If an unsuspecting victim connects it to their computer, the rootkit would be installed.
  • Tailgating/ Evil maid attacks: The attacker installs rootkit onto unattended computers by themselves.
  • Exploit Kits: Attackers leverage these kits to scan systems/ application/ IoT devices for unpatched vulnerabilities and inject rootkits.

Step 2: Clandestine Activities 

Once installed, rootkits remain hidden in the system without the knowledge of the user. Rootkits escape detection by anti-virus, anti-malware, and other security software/ programs since they boot at the same time, before or after the system boots. Also, rootkits manipulate data exchange during system processes to keep its existence hidden.

Step 3: Creation of the Backdoor

The rootkit creates a backdoor to equip the attacker with unrestricted and privileged access to the computer and/or network. Rootkits further conceal the logins and suspicious activities by the attacker thereafter.

Rootkit attacks are leveraged by cybercriminals for:

  • Stealing confidential information.
  • Erosion of computer and/or network performance.
  • Remote control of the infected system/ network to alter configurations, firewall settings, disabling security features, meddling with applications, etc.
  • Creating botnets with the infected systems for social engineering and DDoS attacks.
  • File deletion including OS code, registry keys, security programs, etc.
  • File execution
  • Eavesdropping

How Can You Protect Your Business Against Rootkit Attacks? 

Rootkit protection is a two-pronged process: detection and prevention. Since rootkit detection is difficult, the best defense strategy against rootkit attacks is prevention.

How Can You Detect a Rootkit? 

As mentioned earlier, anti-virus and anti-malware software and traditional security solutions are incapable of detecting all variations of rootkits. Modern-day rootkit scanners are useful tools in detecting and weeding out active rootkits. However, all rootkit scanners are not equal. While some identify only application-layer rootkits, they may be ineffective against kernel, boot, and firmware rootkits. Other rootkit scanners may be effective in the detection of malicious code at the kernel level and not the other variations.

In the face of these limitations, how can you detect a rootkit effectively?

For effective rootkit detection, a combination of intelligent scanning tools and rootkit removers is necessary. Onboarding a comprehensive, managed, next-gen security solution like AppTrana that provides continuous and multi-layered security is necessary. AppTrana proactively detects rootkits and ensures that no new rootkits are installed in your systems. The certified security experts, through a combination of well-researched and innovative methods, can identify even those rootkits that are challenging to detect.

Preventing Rootkit Attacks 

1. Pre-emptive BlockingMonitor all incoming traffic using behavioral analysis and signature scanning to understand suspicious patterns and identify, quarantine, flag, and/or block rootkit injection and backdoor access attempts.

Techniques such as memory dump analysis, network log analysis, and analysis of communication attempts by the rootkit with the remote control center, among others are used to detect and remove rootkits. Intuitive Web Application Firewall (WAF) and comprehensive security solutions from AppTrana empower you to do so and fortify security.

2. Continuous User Education: Attackers exploit the weakest link in cybersecurity – the human component – to accomplish system infection and rootkit installation. The best way to prevent rootkit infection is through continuous user education, especially for those with administrative privileges. They need to understand how to identify phishing attempts, the importance of downloading only legitimate software, not clicking on suspicious links, checking on website reputation before loading it, and so on.

3. Update Everything: It is critical to ensure that every software, program, application, and third-party component is continuously updated.


Rootkits can remain buried in the computer/ network for long periods and cause significant financial and reputational damage. Protect your businesses from rootkit attacks by onboarding an intelligent and cutting-edge solution like AppTrana today.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Indusface authored by Ritika Singh. Read the original post at: