What is a Rootkit? Important 7 Points

Ajay Ohri


With increasing cyber crimes, information technology security policies have gained much momentum. Rootkits are one of the causes of increasing cybercrimes. They are toolboxes of the malware world. It’s not a single malware but a collection of various harmful programs to exploit and make a place for themselves in a system and give remote access to the intruders. They can access as a part of some download, backdoor, or worm without the knowledge of the user and uses the data for wrong intentions and in an illegal manner. The only good option is prevention, as they hide without anyone recognizing it.  

  1. What is a Rootkit?
  2. How is Rootkit installed?
  3. How does a rootkit work?
  4. Types of Rootkit
  5. What is a Rootkit Scan?
  6. How to remove a Rootkit?
  7. Well Known Examples of Rootkit

1. What is a Rootkit?

A rootkit is software, basically malicious that permits unapproved users to gain access to software or computer, which is otherwise not permissible, and it also hides from the software. Rootkit hides in the computer system and gains unauthorized access to the system without anyone knowing the same.  A rootkit is a compound word made up of ‘root’ and ‘kit’. ‘Root’ is the traditional connotation of the administrator account in UNIX, and similar operating system ‘kit’ is associated with the malware and the program to allow unauthorized access to the computer and restricted areas.

2. How is Rootkit installed?

The attacker gains unauthorized access by stealing administrative privileges. Social engineering techniques are employed by cybercriminals to obtain credentials. So basically, a rootkit or malware is installed. Such installation further causes threats by stealing away data, install other malware, control the system computer or even observe all the activities. They are quite sophisticated, making them difficult to detect. As they gain complete control over the data, they can easily modify the software and cybersecurity solutions. The detection solutions are also modified, making it difficult to detect and eliminate rootkits.

3. How does a rootkit work?

A rootkit can be used for several purposes. One of the most common is for improving stealth capabilities. This increase stealth lets the rootkit be hidden while they perform their functions like data destruction from the network. Mainly unauthorized users, hackers get backdoor access into the systems. The computer which is compromised is used as a bot for distributed-denial-of-service attacks (DDoS attacks). The attack would be traced not to the attacker’s system but to the compromised computer. 

4. Types of Rootkit

1.Hardware/ Firmware Toolkit

This toolkit is installed in the computer system. This malware has the potential to disrupt the system’s hard drive or BIOS or the memory chip installed on the motherboard, router. Intruders use this to gain access to the data on the disk.

2. Bootloader rootkit

The bootloader does the work of loading on the operating system of the computer when the machine is turned on. Once the bootloader is started, the authentic is attacked, and the hacked one replaces it. 

3. Memory rootkit

Memory rootkit hides the RAM, and it carries out distrustful activities in the background. They generally have a short lifespan. Mostly they disappear once the system is rebutted. However, in rare situations, further work may be necessary. 

4. Application rootkit

The standard files are replaced by the rootkit ones. There may be a change in the way the standard application works. Few programs like Word, Paint may be infected. Hackers and intruders will have access whenever these programs are started. The infected system will be still functioning, making it challenging for the users to notice the rootkit.

5. Kernel mode rootkits

The main focus of this rootkit is to attack the core system of the operating system. This often results in changing the way of functioning of the operating system. They easily add their code by which they gain easy access to steal personal information. 

5. What is a Rootkit Scan?

Rootkit scan, as the name suggests, are the tool used for detecting and identifying the rootkit infection. If there is any suspicion of a rootkit virus, then it’s better to switch off the computer and execute the scan from trusted systems.  Behaviour analysis is one of the best ways to understand behaviour analysis. Various patterns of behaviour should be carefully dealt with. Target scanning can be used in case of suspicion. This is done even before human realizes of the attack.

6. How to remove a Rootkit?

Few toolkits operate on a high level than the rest, which makes it difficult to detect them. To detect such rootkits, a highly advanced anti-malware tool with multiple features will be required. With the increase in the information technology sector, highly advanced toolkit scanners and remover allow to detect and eliminate such threats easily.  If there is any suspicion on the rootkit, then indications would include the slower performance of the system and RAM, different times, and date display.

It can also cause disability of the anti-virus or anti-malware installed. They start affecting software installation and later on pass on to hardware. Hence, the best advice would be to use the best software for antivirus. Such protection would be on a real-time basis against threats of rootkits, malware, and viruses. Regular updating of the software and scanning can also help in early detection. 

7. Well Known Examples of Rootkit

  1. Lane Davis and Steven Dake- The earliest rootkit known was scripted in the 1990s.
  2. NTRootkit-  Windows OS was targeted initially.
  3. Hacker Defender- Augmented the OS at a low level of functional calls. 
  4. Machiavelli-This creates hidden system calls and kernel threads.
  5. Greek wiretapping- Ericson’s AXE PBX was targeted in 2004-2005
  6. Zeus- used to steal banking information. It was a Trojan horse. 
  7. Stuxnet- for industrial control system
  8. Flame-In 2012, this computer malware attacked the Windows OS and can record audio, screenshots, and other activities. 


Rootkits are one of the most dangerous malware threats. Rootkit scan is placed into the system at any stage and can keep on their work of spying by the cyber criminals. They create a false impression that everything is working well without letting anyone know of their existence. Both hardware and software systems are affected by it. As long as people are there, there will be such sort of threat. The best is always to prevent it from happening. Anti-virus and firewall are a few simple techniques that should be followed. 

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Cyber Security Courses for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.



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