What is RAT Malware, and Why Is It So Dangerous?

A spooky white rat on a black backgroundChichinkin/Shutterstock

A Remote Access Trojan (RAT) is a type of malware that allows hackers to monitor and control your computer or network. But how does a RAT work, why do hackers use them, and how do you avoid them?

RATs Give Hackers Remote Access to Your Computer

If you’ve ever had to call tech support for a PC, then you’re probably familiar with the magic of remote access. When remote access is enabled, authorized computers and servers can control everything that happens on your PC. They can open documents, download software, and even move the cursor around your screen in real time.

A RAT is a type of malware that’s very similar to legitimate remote access programs. The main difference, of course, is that RATs are installed on a computer without a user’s knowledge. Most legitimate remote access programs are made for tech support and file sharing purposes, while RATs are made for spying on, hijacking, or destroying computers.

Like most malware, RATs piggyback on legitimate-looking files. Hackers can attach a RAT to a document in an email, or within a large software package, like a video game.

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