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PC Security: Rootkits

A rootkit is not a new product that you will find in the hair care department of your local discount store. A rootkit is something that is used by malicious hackers to delve into your root file system.

Before programmers are able to write virus definitions for viruses, they must know that the virus exists, and they must have a copy of that virus on a computer to see how it operates. To identify a virus on a machine, that virus must meet two requirements: it must be listed in the virus definition file, and the virus file must be visible to the virus scanner. If the virus has a file named the same as a root system file, the virus scanner would likely ignore it.

A rootkit is a type of virus - and the most dangerous one to date. It hides virus files in the system, so that virus scanners either can't find it, or don't recognize it as a virus. A rootkit will prevent the virus files from showing up in Windows Explorer as well, and choosing the 'show hidden files' option won't help. They don't even show as running processes in the task manager. They are like the wind - present, but not seen.

Believe it or not, a reputable company started the entire mess. Sony was using rootkits back in 2005 to protect their software from being copied. The rootkits hid the files that were used for copy protection. Of course, it didn't take long for Hackers to find this code, and use it to their advantage. You see, any file that begins with $sys$ is invisible to the naked eye on your system.

Naturally, creators of viruses started making their own rootkits. These rootkits were distributed to other hackers, who in turn distributed them via viruses that had various payloads as well. Rootkits were delivered with these viruses in the usual way - through email attachments and downloads.

Think about your own virus scans. Do you take the time to have the software scan the boot sector of your hard drive? If not, you should. Some rootkits can hide in the boot sector. This means that the rootkit loads every time you reboot your system. A rootkit can even hide from itself! When it is in the
boot sectors, it can take over the operating systems kernel, which is a program that controls the basic functions of the hardware. Once it has that control, it has effectively taken full control of your system, and even higher level operating system programs won't detect it.

Fortunately, vendors are working on software that will effectively combat rootkits. Currently, you can get RootKitRevealer, which was created by SysInternals for free. It isn't perfect, but it's a start.

  PC Security: Index
  PC Security: Internet Browsers
  PC Security: Spam
  PC Security: Stopping Spam Part 1
  PC Security: Stopping Spam Part 2
  PC Security: Spam Scams
  PC Security: Email Security and Spam
  PC Security: Email Security
  PC Security: Computer Viruses
  PC Security: Protecting Computers From Viruses
  PC Security: Worm Viruses
  PC Security: Trojan Horse Viruses
  PC Security: Rootkits
  PC Security: Removing a Virus
  PC Security: Virus Hoaxes
  PC Security: Server Viruses
  PC Security: Home Network
  PC Security: Cell Phone Viruses
  PC Security: Spyware
  PC Security: Firewalls Part 1
  PC Security: Firewalls Part 2
  PC Security: Parental Control Software
  PC Security: Malware - Spyware and Adware
  PC Security: Data Backups
  PC Security: Pop Up Windows
  PC Security: Safe Public Computer Use

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