Are RATs Invading Your Webcam?
Jackie here. Do you have a webcam? If you do, there’s one type of malware you need to be aware of: the Remote Access Trojan (RAT). RATs have been used to hack into webcams and spy on their users without their knowledge. It isn’t just celebrities and politicians that are at risk; everyday people have been victims of RAT spying using their webcams and the spying is becoming more common. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
Remote Access Trojans (RATs) - What Are They?
Remote Access Trojans, also known as RATs, are a type of malware that allows for remote control of a device. This malware allows the perpetrator to access your computer files, to view your computer activities (and to obtain account information, passwords, etc.), to alter programs on your computer, and to spy on victims through their webcams (basically anything you can do, the perpetrator can access too). This type of malware is hard to catch as it doesn’t really change how your computer works and doesn’t typically show up in lists of running programs.
Webcam Spying- How Common is the Problem?
RATs are a common type of malware, but it is unknown exactly how prevalent they are since they aren’t easily discovered. Last year, hundreds were arrested for selling access to computers infected with RATs. A recent article on the problem from the Atlantic also mentions cases of school districts, computer stores, and others using RATs to spy on people without their knowledge.
RATs sound scary and they are, but luckily good computer practices can go a long way in protecting your device. If you follow the advice we share often here on the blog, you’ll likely be doing most of the
things on this list already. Here are some important ways to protect yourself from RATs.
Use Antivirus Software- Your computer should always be protected with an up to date antivirus program. Make sure you’re performing your regularly scheduled scans.
Install Your Updates- Updates to software programs might be annoying, but they often include security fixes. Automatic updates are a great way to make sure your computer is always up to date.
Be Careful with Attachments- Be extremely careful when downloading attachments even if they appear to be from someone you know. Legitimate accounts can be compromised, so if an email seems suspicious (even if it’s from someone you know) don’t open the attachment.
Avoid Illegal Downloads- Sites where you can download pirated movies, games, etc. are a big source of malware. Steer clear of illegal downloads.
Cover or Unplug Your Webcam- When you aren't using your webcam, unplug it or cover it. This applies to both webcams that are part of your computer and those that clip on.