What if we were to tell you that your computer right now is full of harmful software that is making your computer part of a botnet engaging in cyber-attacks/ data breaches/ click frauds without your knowledge. Scary, right? But unfortunately, there is a high probability of this happening, all thanks to Rootkit. In this article, we will explore more about this clandestine malicious software including rootkit definition, detection, and prevention.

Rootkit Definition

rootkit is a malicious software/computer program that provides continued, backdoor, root-level access (high-level administrative privileges) to your computer or even your network while concealing its presence and activities. It is difficult to detect a rootkit and very dangerous.

What does Rootkit do?

When a rootkit gets successfully installed on your computer, it boots every time your computer’s operating system (OS) boots, before, after or at the same time as the OS boots. It allows hackers/ attackers to have continuous and privileged access clandestinely, undetected by you or your ant-virus program.

The potential consequences:

  • A rootkit may be bundled with other sneaky and dangerous malware like Trojans, worms, viruses, etc. or even ransomware.
  • Rootkit puts your confidential data at risk by enabling hackers/attackers/cybercriminals to falsify and steal your documents, credit card information, passwords, etc.
  • Attackers can use rootkits to modify and/or delete OS code, files, etc. on the system.
  • Rootkits snoop around and spy on users to gain their personal and confidential information.
  • Through remote access, rootkits can modify system configuration settings such as altering startup scripts, allowing backdoor TCP ports by altering firewall settings, grant access for the system to be part of a botnet, etc.
  • Rootkits allow attackers to subvert anti-malware software on the computer to remotely access and execute files.


Rootkit has the potential to erode your computer’s and the entire network’s performance, apart from putting your data at risk.

Types of Rootkit :

  • Kernel-mode: The kernel is the core of the OS. So, kernel-mode rootkits can control all system processes and impact the system’s stability immensely. These are very difficult to detect.
  • Application / User-mode: rootkits operate at the application layer and are installed in a shared library. So, these rootkits modify the application behavior and files, as well as, API behavior or inject malicious code/ payload to change it. These are easier to detect as they operate at the same level as the anti-virus programs
  • Firmware rootkits, a hard to detect type of rootkit, affect firmware devices (network devices, etc.) by gaining access to the software that runs them such as routers, hard drives, network cards, system BIOS, etc. These get booted along with the system and remain available until the system is.
  • Bootkits / Boot Loader level kits infect the master boot record (MBR)/ legitimate boot loader to gain access to a target system, allowing malicious programs to be executed before the OS loads.
  • Rootkit Hypervisors gain control of the target system by exploiting its hardware virtualization features – bypassing the kernel and running the target OS in a virtual system. Operating at the highest levels, these rootkits can access and intercept all hardware calls and are nearly impossible to detect.

Methods of Rootkit injection

Rootkits are injected into target computers through piggybacking or blended threat methods. In Piggybacking, the rootkit is bundled with seemingly legitimate and trustworthy software that the user installs.

In the blended threat method, there is a dropper and a loader. The dropper is a program/ file, distributed through social engineering, phishing emails or a brute force attack, that is used to install a rootkit on your computer. The loader is the malicious code/ payload that is launched after the dropper program is initiated by a user and leverages vulnerabilities to ensure that the rootkit loads

How to detect?

Rootkits are difficult to detect with no commercial products capable of finding and removing all of its possible variations. A multi-layered and comprehensive security solution like those offered by Indusface will enable you to proactively detect rootkits and block new ones from being installed on your system. With the help of Indusface’s certified security experts, you can also detect the difficult to detect rootkits.

Our solutions include an intelligent and managed WAF that engages in the parsing of incoming web traffic and requests, behavioral analysis, and signature scanning to block rootkit injection attempts. Through effective vulnerability management, security audits, and regular pen-testing, our solutions enable you to identify and flag/ quarantine backdoor files and access attempts, perform a memory dump analysis, analysis of network logs to identify communication attempts by rootkits to the remote control center, etc.

How to protect it?

  • Ensure that the system and all software including your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are regularly updated. Updates contain critical patches to protect your system against known vulnerabilities and thereby, rootkits.
  • Never click on links, open email attachments or accept files from unknown sources. A large proportion of rootkits get distributed this way.
  • It goes without saying that downloading cracked software is a no-no. Always download trustworthy software after reading the end-user license agreement carefully.
  • Educate yourself and your stakeholders about phishing emails and other ways in which they could be compromising security.
  • Onboard a security solution that enables you to fortify your security posture.
  • If you have a website that is critical for your business and brand do continuous Application security audit and malware monitoring from solutions such as Indusface WAS to ensure your web application does not become the Segway thru which malicious code is distributed to your users