What Is A Rootkit? How Do You Get Rid Of Them?
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] few people have emailed me to ask what a rootkit is, and how they can either protect their computer or get rid of one. This is a great question as the answer is simple yet a little bit complicated.
Rootkits first started coming into play in the UNIX/Linux operating system environment. That’s where the “root” part of the word comes in. Root stands for the administrator level part of the operating system, and “kit” stands for the software that will operate at this administrator level. Rootkits are not always malicious, but if you’re asking in this context then what you’re probably talking about is a malicious rootkit. They can hide out in your operating system disguising themselves as critical system files. Therefore your operating system won’t notice them, and neither will your antivirus software.
Rootkits are now mainly used to install malware that can spy on your software, execute commands, access logs, and more. They allow malicious people and/or software to operate at the administrator level and can potentially cause a lot of damage. And the bad part is that you might not even notice it’s happening. Even expert computer techs can have a hard time finding and removing these annoying things.
Unfortunately there are no software programs that can detect and remove every single rootkit that exists with 100% success. There are just too many and they hide too well. The best thing to do if you suspect a rootkit, however, is to start out by scanning your PC with a good antimalware / antivirus software that is specifically engineered to find rootkits. This could be something as simple as BitDefender’s Rootkit Remover or Enigma Software’s Spyhunter 4. If you already have this type of software, you should double check to see if it does indeed offer protection from rootkits.
[box type=”info” ]Unfortunately, many security experts will recommend that if your system is compromised by a rootkit that you completely wipe the system and re-install the operating system. This is not a bad idea, and often is necessary.[/box]
Avoiding rootkits involves the standard operating procedure of keeping your computer up to date in terms of patches and updates applies here in order to prevent rootkit installation. As always, don’t open strange attachments or click on odd links in your emails / texts / instant messages. Avoid internet “bad zones” such as adult sites, gambling sites, and hacking sites. Keep your anti-malware and antivirus software up to date. And keep an eye on security news in order to learn about the latest security threats so you can avoid them.
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