A rootkit is a kind of software that conceals malware from standard detection methods. A good analogy for a rootkit would be a burglar breaking into your house. The burglar is dressed all in black, so that his form blends into the darkness. He tiptoes around to hide his sounds so he’s more likely to go undetected as he steals your belongings. But unlike the burglar, who usually takes your stuff and leaves, an efficient rootkit can stick around for years doing its work, robbing your computer or mobile device of data.
How do you get a rootkit? One way is via a, or a malicious file that looks benign, like a plug-in that you download or an opening an email attachment. Rootkits can also be spread through infected mobile apps.
Once downloaded, a rootkit will interfere with your device’s functions, including your security software. If you run a security scan, a rootkit will often prevent your security software from showing you this information so you’ll have no idea that malware is running on your device.
Because of this, it is difficult to detect a rootkit. Detection methods include looking for strange behavior on your device or scanning your device’s memory. If you do believe that you have a rootkit on your computer or mobile device, you can either reinstall your operating system (after backing up your data, of course) or use a rootkit removal tool like
- Don’t open suspicious links or attachments. Although they might look harmless, they could have malware installed on them.
- Keep your OS updated. Make sure that you install the latest updates for your operating system and any hardware updates that are available for your device as these often close up security holes.
- Install comprehensive security software. Security software, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, can safeguard your computer or mobile device from rootkits. Make sure to keep your software updated against new threats.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.