RATs are usually downloaded invisibly using a program you requested – for example a game – or sent to you as an attachment in an email. They can perform actions similar to real software. RATs can be difficult to find either because they don’t usually show up in lists of the programs or tasks you’re using, or you don’t usually notice that they are affecting the performance of your device.
RATs are increasingly being used to take control of webcams, with the aim of using the subsequent videos or images for blackmail or other inappropriate purposes.
- Being spied on (including being recorded) via your own webcam. In some cases, they are designed to do so without activating the indicator light, so you are unaware that you are being watched.
- Having your online behaviour monitored (including which websites you are visiting, who you are emailing, what you are typing.
- Having your confidential information accessed – including bank account and social security details.
- Being used as part of a botnet to distribute viruses and other malware.
- Having your computer drives formatted.
- Having your files and file systems deleted, downloaded or altered.
How to avoid ratting
- Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running whenever your computer or mobile device is switched on.
- Do not be tempted to download programs or apps that are not from a trusted source, as they could contain RATs and other malware.
- Download updates to your programs and apps when prompted to do so … they often include security fixes.
- Take great care about which links you click on in emails – they may be phishing.
- Take great care about opening attachments in emails, even if they seem to be from people you know.
- Avoid suspicious website and torrent downloading. Many such downloads are not only against the law but also a major gateway for this type of cyber-attack.
- Cover your webcam when not in use, whether it is a built-in or clip-on device.
If you think you have been the victim of being spied on via your webcam
Report the incident to your local police.
If you’ve experienced cybercrime, you can contact the charity Victim Support for free and confidential support and information.