Ratters are one of the new kinds of creepy computer spies. They specialize in discreetly recording videos and images through webcams of the hacked victims. They, then, post these images and videos in online forums and trade with fellow hackers.
In a disturbing and detailed article on Ars Technica, journalist Nate Anderson discovered more than 134 pages of post in hackforums.net featuring captured images and videos of unsuspecting female users. Some are directly recorded from webcams while others were copied from the hard drives.
“Calling most of these guys ‘hackers’ does a real disservice to hackers everywhere; only minimal technical skill is now required to deploy a RAT and acquire slaves,” Anderson wrote. “Once infected, all the common RAT software provides a control panel view in which one can see all current slaves, their locations, and the status of their machines. With a few clicks, the operator can start watching the screen or webcam of any slave currently online.”
Ratters could be professional hackers or even a newbie who gets his hand on the latest Remote Access (or Administration) Tool [R.A.T.], freely available on hacker forums. They would insert these files, disguised, into popular torrent sites or one of the hundreds of unmonitored download sites. The software is incorporated into a music file or free program for the unsuspecting user to download.
Once downloaded, the ratter now has almost complete access to the victim’s computer. Then, they go on to record images and videos from these “slave” computers. Other than brazen recording and posting, the ratters also intimidate their victims by showing graphic images, opening the DVD drive, and using text to speech applications to “communicate” messages.
What Can Be Done
RATs are, unfortunately, legal and have been around for a long time. Most of the remote access tools are used to find stolen laptops or by firms to offer computer assistance to their employees.
The law enforcement agencies are finding it difficult to catch ratters. But there are some basic steps to ensure that your computer remains under your control.
1) Be aware of the webcam light. If your computer is compromised and the ratter is accessing the webcam, the light will come on. There are detailed discussions in hacker forums as to how these lights can be controlled, which they find is very difficult.
2) Avoid torrent sites and other dodgy download sites and suspicious emails.
3) Install the latest versions of anti-virus, anti-mal-ware program and firewall. Do not forget to update your PC regularly. Update plug-ins like Flash and Java.
4) Use Task Manager to find out what programs are running. If you find anything fishy, disconnect from the internet and disinfect using security software.
5) Cover the webcam with a piece of paper.