Tech

Explainer: What is rootkit malware and how to remove it from Windows PC and Mac


Rootkits are powerful malware, actually a bunch of them together, that even your antivirus may find it hard to detect and remove from your system. They are designed for concealed background activities and can give unauthorised access to the targeted system to bad actors who can then steal sensitive data and banking credentials and/or turn the device into a botnet to make it a part of a DDoS cyberattack.
Rootkits can be manually put inside the system with administrator access or they can be sneaked into and installed via automation. Once they get inside your systems, they can stay hidden and at the same time, active, preventing your antivirus (which we assume you have on your device) from detecting them.
It is very hard to remove the rootkits from an infected system and could even be not possible in cases where the rootkits make their base in the kernel. You may even have to replace your hardware in some cases.
How rootkit malware can infect your system
Rootkits can arrive into your system via phishing or by exploiting a software or OS vulnerability. They can also arrive via infected documents, pirated content or apps downloaded from third-party stores.
Removing rootkit from Windows PC
On Windows, you can run a rootkit scan through your antivirus. If the infection is stronger, then you might have to reinstall Windows. If that’s the case, try reinstalling using an external media device in place of the on-device Windows installer. In some cases, the BIOS may get infected, and you’ll have to get it repaired. If the stubborn malware does not disappear even after a repair, then, unfortunately, it could be a lost cause and you may have to buy a new PC.
Removing rootkit from Mac
Apple’s security updates for MacBooks are usually armed with rootkit removal tools so you should keep the macOS installed on your device updated to the latest release. Also, try to improve your chances against a rootkit attack by investing in a comprehensive antivirus solution. In case you suspect your system has a rootkit and your antivirus can’t detect it, try reinstalling the macOS. This should remove the rootkit. But in case the BIOS is gone and the repair doesn’t work, you may have no option other than getting a new device.
How to prevent rootkits from entering Windows PC or Mac

  • First and foremost, fortify the defences of your device by purchasing a comprehensive antivirus program which comes with the capability of rootkit scanning.

  • You should keep updating your software and OS regularly so that security vulnerabilities could not be used by hackers to launch rootkit-based attacks.

  • Do not open suspicious emails and links from suspicious/unknown sources as rootkits may arrive on your device via phishing.

  • Download softwares from reputed and trusted sites only. If your web browser or antivirus warns against visiting a certain site, do not visit.

  • You should also refrain from opening attachments from people you don’t know as it can prevent the rootkit from being installed on your system.

  • Your computer may behave suspiciously when a rootkit gets installed. The signs may include a blue screen, device getting slow, Windows settings changing on their own, unrecognised bookmarks, links getting redirected, etc. Watch out for these signs so that you can take early action.



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