What is a RAT?
A RAT or Remote Access Tool is a tool created to make it easier to gain support when using your computer.
The idea is that you have a problem and you call your Tech Support company and they log into your computer running a RAT and have access to your computer to fix your problem.
Why is this a problem?
While the idea that you can contact a support company to remotely access your computer is a good idea, there are a lot of cases where this technology is used for ill.
Tech Support Scam
Take the call out of the blue from a tech support company claiming to be Microsoft. Either your computer has a virus or is interfering with someone else’s computer. You give the agent access to your computer and then they have full access to your computer.
This rogue tech support company not only has access to your desktop, but also full access to your files, which they can download to their computer and browse without your knowledge. The rogue tech support company can then make changes to your computer to effectively lock you out of your own computer.
The refund scam
The scammer calls you up and tells you that you have a refund owed to you, uses a RAT to connect to your computer and as you go into your online banking, uses a web developer tool to change the amount on your banking website to make it look like they have given 10 times the amount of refund and want you to pay it back. You send them a bank transfer for the extra amount and then find that you have lost that amount as the whole thing was a scam from the start. Since you paid them the money, you have no comeback from your bank.
Often the best way to prevent these scammers is to use a call screening service and ignore calls from these types of scammers.
What is a ratter and what is ratting?
While the scammer uses something called an overt RAT, there is also another kind of RAT called a covert RAT.
Covert Ratting involves tricking the user into clicking on a link that installs the covert RAT in the form of a trojan horse, such as an innocent looking video or website. The covert RAT gives the Ratter full access to the computer but the user has no idea what is going on.
The Ratter downloads files from the victim’s computer and looks for anything they can use as bribery. The ratter can see the victim through their webcam and suggests they take clothes off or they will show her photos to friends and family. Once the ratter has had their fill, they sell the victim’s details on a nefarious website as a “slave”.
How to protect yourself
There are different solutions available that prevent RATs from working on your computer. It is not something you can easily block through a firewall or router, as these programs are designed to work through firewalls and routers.
You can prevent covert Ratters from causing a problem by obscuring the webcam with a sticker, plaster or post-it note so the camera cannot be used when its not required.
You can also use software vaults to hide away sensitive photos so that there is nothing the Ratter can see and since they are opportunists, they will look elsewhere.
What to do if you have been Ratted
By far the best option is to perform a full backup of your data then a clean reset of Windows. This will make sure that any traces of the RAT are removed from your computer. You are then free to reinstall your programs and your data from the backup.