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Are you being watched by a rat through your computer's webcam?

23 October 2013, 13:35

Does your laptop’s camera light flash on and off even when you are not using camera programs like Skype ?

Do strange websites and windows open and close even when you don’t touch your keyboard ?

If it does, there is a chance that you have a RAT – a Remote Administration Tool that a hacker has infected your computer with.

RATTERS, as they are known, use this software to take over their victim’s computer where they gain virtually full control over the computer. Even when the victim reboots, the RAT software automatically reactivates allowing the hacker the backdoor to take over again. Having an Anti-Virus software is also not a guarantee against this kind of software as some of the RAT software is so complex and cleverly disguised that it is Fully Un-Detectable (FUD) by the anti-virus software.

You might be infected and don’t even know it.

And this is where the danger-factor comes in. Not only can a Ratter spy on what you are doing online, capture your username and password and see which websites you are using, but Ratters can remotely activate your web cam and record pics of what your web cam sees. Ratters can use these images to blackmail their victims as was the case where a 19 year Jared James Abrahams was arrested after he installed the RAT software on Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf’s computer. Jared then attempted to blackmail Cassidy with posting nude pictures of her online which he captured using her own web cam. Ratter use this embarrassment-approach to get their victims to send them more nude pictures of themselves to avoid the embarrassment of having their intimate moments exposed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social sites that the victim is actively using and the ratter has the username and password to. Ratter would often send “sample images” of their collection to the victim as “proof” of what they stored.

As people tend to download pictures from their mobile phones onto their computer, the ratter would then gain access to those images too.

The RAT Software:

It is surprisingly easy to set up this software. A couple of click and searched on Google and you have the software. If you don’t have any technical experience, then simply follow the YouTube video clips that show you how to set it up and what you need to do in order to run these systems.

In this example you can see the Ratter has activated the victim’s web cam and he can see everything she is doing in real-time.

Through his Control Screen he is able to send images to the Victim too – in this case the clearly shocked girl was sent an X-rated picture that just displayed on her screen.

Ratter also love to scare their victims and often send scary or disturbing images along with a screaming sound that shocks their victims and the reaction is captured.

Thankfully, most of these ratters are not sophisticated enough to know how to cover their tracks which is how authorities are able to trace them. In the Miss Teen USA case, Jared thought he managed to hide his trace by using anonymous IP masking systems however he left an IP trace. In this case it was the IP address from this blackmail email and the IP address from this Dynamic DNS provider that lead authorities to him.

Ratters used to be mainly male, however this is no longer the case where females are taking part too.  Although the female Ratters tend to be less aggressive in their exploits focusing mainly on trolling and scarring their victims. As the software is so simple, it is seen primarily as a game for teenagers to stalk and prank their victims where, just like bullying, they do not realise the trauma that these actions can cause and are seen as “harmless teenage pranks”. Needless to say those Ratters who escalated their action to blackmail have taken their actions over to the dark side of the net.

The Lesson:

The RAT software can not just “appear”. Your computer needs to be infected and this infection is typically actioned by you. Ratters tend to be young and initially would try to infect kids from school to see what photos they can gather and use as leverage. As their level of sophistication and confidence grows, they would spread their net wider infecting files on file-sharing sites such as illegal tormenting sites that host movies and games. They know that kids tend to click on these links that promise free games. When the files are downloaded and installed, the RAT software is installed too. So besides being illegal, these torrented files also carry with them the high risk of infection.

With the shocking rate of cyber bullying that has even lead to kids as young as 12 committing suicide, it is vital to make kids aware of this issue. If they suspect that their computer has been hacked or they have been threatened or blackmailed by these Ratters, kids must know that they did nothing wrong, and must be able to report this.

Parents and Teachers need to understand the severity of this too and so when someone complains of suspicious activity on their computer, do not dismiss it as a bug but rather have the computer checked.

You never know if there is RAT hiding in there…

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