TMCnet Feature
September 27, 2022

All You Should Know About Backdoor Attacks

A backdoor attack is similar to what burglary is to your home or apartment. Supposing a criminal wants to steal your stereo system, they can't go through walls, so they would rather go through your back door.

It’s the same philosophy for computers and networks. Every system has an opening in the code or secret backdoors that can be exploited by cyber-attackers. Hence, the name backdoor attack. Statista reveals that backdoor attacks accounted for 37% of all detected malware attacks between October 2020 and September 2021. This is why businesses should learn more about backdoor attacks and how to prevent them.

What is a backdoor?

A backdoor allows you to access a system unnoticed by circumventing its security. It can be caused by malware or deliberate manufacturing (hardware or software) decisions. Secret accounts on a network and default passwords are great examples of what a backdoor looks like.

How backdoor attacks work

Backdoor attacks can work in any of the following ways:

Backdoor malware attack: This is commonly referred to as a Trojan.

A Trojan is a malicious computer program that is disguised as something harmless (like an ad, app or file) to deliver malware, steal data, or open a backdoor on your system. Computer Trojans, like the Trojan horse in Greek mythology, always come with a malicious surprise.

Trojans are an extremely versatile tool in the arsenal of cybercriminals. They can take many forms, such as an email attachment or a file download, and deliver various malware threats.

To make matters worse, Trojans can sometimes replicate themselves and spread to other systems without additional commands from the cybercriminals who created them.

Once cybercriminals have gained access, they may employ what is known as a rootkit. A rootkit is a malware package designed to hide Internet activity and avoid detection (from you and your operating system). Rootkits give attackers continued access to infected systems. The rootkit essentially acts as a stopper, keeping the backdoor open. 

Built-in backdoor attack: The hardware and software manufacturers install built-in or proprietary backdoors. Unlike backdoor malware, these backdoors are not designed with criminal intent. Instead, they are seen as artifacts of the software development process.

Software developers create backdoor accounts to quickly move in and out of applications. They do this to test their applications and fix software bugs without needing to create an "actual" account. These backdoors aren't usually supposed to come with the final software released to the public, but they occasionally do. Although it is not the end of the world, there is always the possibility that a proprietary backdoor will fall into the hands of cyber-criminals.

Types of backdoor attacks

Backdoor attacks are classified into two types:

1. Administrative backdoor attack

Sometimes programmers willfully leave a backdoor in a software program open so that, in the event of a failure or error, they can swiftly access the program's core code and fix the problem. Software testers can also benefit from these intentional backdoors by using them to test the codes. Even if such backdoors are only known to the developers, a malicious hacker can exploit them and use them to his advantage.

2. Malicious backdoor attack

Backdoors installed on a system by cybercriminals using malware programs such as Remote Access Trojan (RAT) are known as malicious backdoors. They’re designed to take over a network and perform criminal tasks. A RAT can access the system's root and install a backdoor that hackers can exploit. It spreads across networks via programs.

Consequences of backdoor attacks

Backdoor attacks can have serious effects for both individuals and organizations;

For Individuals: They can enable cybercriminals to copy personal information such as banking information and other sensitive data, resulting in identity theft. Malware programs that steal or damage files or other information may be installed on a user's system by attackers.

For Organizations: Cyber-criminals may gain access to sensitive information or systems on a company's network, or they may spread malware throughout the system. This type of attack can result in data breaches (all the resulting negative effects) have a significant impact on individual users as well as the overall operation of the organization.

How to spot backdoor vulnerability

Backdoor attacks can be difficult to spot, but there are a few ways to see if your system is vulnerable. Run a vulnerability scan on your system via a reputable security software provider.

You can also monitor your system for unusual or suspicious activity, such as:

  • Unexpected system failure.
  • Increased bandwidth or storage space utilization.
  • Unexpected changes in the amount of data accessed or transferred.
  • The appearance of new files, folders, or programs on the system on a regular basis.

If you notice any of the above-mentioned, it could mean that your system has been compromised, and you are vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Preventing backdoor attacks

It is difficult to detect built-in backdoors because they are part of your system. This is why manufacturers test their software from time to time and release patches to fix vulnerabilities. But you can take steps to protect your organization from malicious malware backdoor attacks.

? Use a strong password policy: Your company's IT department (or IT partner) never intended for your actual password to be "guest" or "12345." If you keep the default password, you've unintentionally created a backdoor. Change it as soon as possible, and while you're at it, also enable multifactor authentication (MFA (News - Alert)) because remembering a different password for each application can be difficult.

? Keep track of network activity: Unusual data spikes could indicate that someone is using a backdoor on your system. Use firewalls to track inbound and outbound activity from various applications installed on your computer systems to prevent this.

? Install mobile/computer applications and plugins with caution: Cybercriminals enjoy concealing backdoors within seemingly harmless free apps and plugins. The best defense is to ensure that the apps and plugins you use are from a reputable source. Android and Chromebook users should use Google (News - Alert) Play apps, while Mac and iOS users should use Apple's App Store. Think twice when a newly installed app requests permission to access data or functions on your device.

? Use a reliable cybersecurity solution: A good anti-malware solution will prevent cybercriminals from deploying Trojans and rootkits used to open those pesky backdoors. Doing this will keep you and your devices safe from backdoor attacks.

Final Thoughts

Backdoors attacks seem almost inevitable. But you can identify vulnerabilities in your system or network and fix them. One way to do this is to keep up with security updates and patches. Software developers frequently release new patches to address vulnerabilities in their products, and installing those updates is simple. Many programs even have an auto-update feature. If you use Mac or Windows, go to your settings and enable "Automatic Updates" — this will keep your operating system updated because backdoor attackers rely on tricking your operating system.

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