The name backdoor might sound strange, but it can be very dangerous if one is located on your computer system or network. The question is, how dangerous is a backdoor, and what are the implications if your network is affected.
In this article meant for beginners, we are going to take a look at what a backdoor is and how hackers use backdoors to gain access to computer systems around the world.
What is a Backdoor
OK, so a backdoor is basically a way for hackers to bypass regular encryption methods on a computer, which then allows them to enter the system and collect data such as passwords and other important information. Sometimes a backdoor is designed for so-called good purposes. For example, a situation may arise when a system admin loses access, and as such, only a backdoor could provide access.
In many cases, victims have no idea a backdoor is installed on their computer, and that’s a problem because they have no idea their data is being siphoned by outsiders and probably sold on the dark web. Let us talk about this topic in detail.
- The history of backdoors with examples
- How hackers take advantage of backdoors
- How backdoors come about on a computer?
- Developer installed backdoor
- Backdoor created by hackers
- Discovered backdoors
- How to protect computers against backdoors.
You can read the difference between Virus, Trojan, Worm, Adware, Rootkit, etc, here.
1] The history of backdoors with examples
Backdoors have been around for quite a long time now, but they were primarily backdoors put into place by the creators. For example, the NSA back in 1993 developed an encryption chip for use in both computers and phones. What was interesting about this chip is the built-in backdoor that came with it.
In theory, this chip was designed to keep sensitive information secured, but at the same time allow law enforcement to listen in on voice and data transmissions.
Another example of a backdoor leads us to Sony, surprisingly. You see, the Japanese company back in 2005 shipped millions of music CDs to customers around the world, but there was a huge problem with these products. The company chose to install a rootkit on each CD, which means, whenever the CD is placed in a computer, the rootkit then installs itself onto the operating system.
When that is done, the rootkit will monitor the user’s listening habits and send the data back to Sony servers. Needless to say, it was one of the biggest scandals of 2005, and it still hangs over Sonys head to this very day.
2] How hackers take advantage of backdoors
It’s not easy to spot a digital backdoor since it is not the same as a physical backdoor. In some cases, hackers might use a backdoor to cause damage to a computer or network, but in most situations, these things are used to copy files and to spy.
A person spying tends to look at sensitive information, and they can do this without leaving a trace. It is a much better option than copying files since that route usually leaves something behind. However, when done right, copying information does not leave traces behind, but it is difficult to accomplish, therefore, only the most advanced of hackers take on this challenge.
When it comes down to causing havoc, a hacker will decide to just deliver malware to the system rather than go about on a covert mission. This is the easiest option, which requires speed because detection does not take very long, especially if the system is highly secured.
3] How backdoors come about on a computer?
From our research, there are three primary ways for a backdoor to appear on a computer. They are usually created by developers, created by hackers, or discovered. Let us talk more about those.
4] Developer installed backdoor
One of the most dangerous backdoors on a computer or computer network is the one installed by the developer. In some cases, application developers place backdoors in a product that they can use whenever the need arises.
They do it if they want to give law enforcement access, spy on citizens, if the product is being sold by a rival, among other reasons.
5] Backdoor created by hackers
In some cases, a hacker is unable to find a backdoor on a system, therefore, the next best thing is to create one from scratch. To get it done, the hacker is required to create a tunnel from their system to that of the victim.
If they do not have manual access, the hackers must trick the victim into installing a specialized tool that allows them to access the computer from a remote location. From there, hackers can easily access important data and download them with relative ease.
6] Backdoor discovered by hackers
In some situations, there is no need for hackers to create their own backdoors because due to bad developer practice, a system might have backdoors unknown to all involved. Hackers, if they’re lucky, might come across this error and take full advantage of it.
From what we’ve gathered over the years, backdoors tend to show up in remote access software than anything else, and that is because these tools were designed to give folks access to a computer system from a remote location.
7] How to protect computers against backdoors
It’s not easy to protect your computer from built-in backdoors because it is difficult to identify them in the first place. However, when it comes down to other types of backdoors, there are ways to get things under control.
- Monitor network activity on your computer(s): We believe that monitoring network security on your Windows 10 computer is one of the best ways to protect your system from potential backdoors. Take advantage of the Windows Firewall tool, and other third-party network monitoring programs.
- Change your password every 90 days: In more ways than one, your password is the gateway to all sensitive information on your computer. If you have a weak password, then right away you’ve created a backdoor. The same goes if your password is too old, for example, multiple years old.
- Careful when downloading free apps: For those with Windows 10, the Microsoft Store is probably the safest place to download apps, but the Store is lacking in most programs used by users. This situation forces the user to continue downloading apps on the web, and this is where things can go very wrong. We suggest scanning each program before installing with Microsoft Defender or any of your favorite anti-virus and malware tool.
- Always use a security solution: Every computer that is powered by Windows 10 should have security software installed and in use. By default, Microsoft Defender should be running on every device, so right out of the box, the user is protected. However, there are many options available to the user, so make use of the one that works best for your needs.
Ransomware, Rogue software, Rootkits, Botnets, RATs, Malvertising, Phishing, Drive-by-download attacks, Online Identity Theft, are all here to stay now. One now needed to take an integrated approach to fight malware, and hence Firewalls, Heuristics, etc, were also made a part of the arsenal. There are many free antivirus software and free Internet Security Suites, that act as good as the paid options. You can read more here on – Tips to secure Windows 10 PC.