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What is a Back Door Threat?

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | September 1, 2021
Cyber Dictionary|CyberSecurity - SMB

Did you leave the door open?

Bet you have had that “oh no” feeling once or twice in your life where you left for work or school or just to go visit a friend and you have this awful feeling in the back of your mind – “did I leave the door unlocked”.  For most of us that is both a scary and stressful thought because it encourages even more worrisome thoughts about someone getting into our home and taking things, violating our private space and who knows what else.

There is a similar parallel in the digital world – something the cyber community refers to as a back door threat and they can be just as stressful and potentially just as life-affecting as they can be in the physical world.

What is a Back Door Threat?

A back door threat is a particular type of malware (malicious software) attack that bypass a device’s security restrictions to gain unauthorized access. Simply put its a piece of software code that enables the bad actors to go in and out of your device without being detected or you knowing about it.

With a backdoor opened, remote access to your device is enabled and the hackers are able to get onto your device whenever they want to. They can then access the device’s resources, such as files, control the camera and microphone, steal data, issue system commands and install additional malware.

Small and midsize businesses are particularly vulnerable for backdoor attacks because they tend to have fewer resources to close off entry points or identify successful attacks. Cybercriminals know that SMBs often lack the budget or security experts to prevent and mitigate such attacks and it’s why a large percentage of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses.

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How is a Back Door threat created?

A back door threat in software, systems or devices can come in various forms and while there are many examples of backdoors being exploited for malicious activities, there are cases where backdoors do exist for non-malicious activities.

Non-malicious Backdoors

Software developers sometimes deliberately code backdoors into their applications as a legitimate point of access for remote administration, diagnostics, troubleshooting, or system tests.

These intentional backdoors can improve performance, make user experience better and are required by some software vendors. Unfortunately, they can also be exploited by hackers to gain unauthorized access. Hackers often look for administrator backdoors and those known only to the software vendors to break into systems.

Backdoors are not always evil, but they do add another layer of vulnerability that hackers can exploit to gain access to a device or system.

Malicious Backdoors

Hackers can also install their own backdoors into targeted systems with the help of a remote access Trojan, or RAT.  A RAT is a piece of malware code that includes a backdoor for administrative control on a specific device.

RATs make their way into the system by tricking the user into downloading them through social engineering and disguising them as legitimate files. RATs can be masquerading as an email attachment sent by a co-worker, a social media link on a friend’s profile, or a free app to download. Once a RAT is installed, hackers can use the backdoor anytime they please to mess with your device or system.

Backdoor Threat - How it Occurs 2

What makes Backdoors so dangerous?

Whether a backdoor is intended to be non-malicious or it results from unintended flaws in websites, operating systems or apps the security risk to devices and systems is the same. What makes backdoors dangerous is that it is bound to be discovered by a bad actor who will be eager to exploit it.

What happens when hackers gains access via backdoors?

Backdoor Threat - How it Occurs

How to protect against Backdoors?

Unfortunately, backdoor attacks are extremely difficult to detect. Many users are unaware that backdoors exist on their device or in their systems. In fact, it may be an extended period of time (weeks, months, or even years) before the bad actors initiate an actual attack through the backdoor.

But there are strategies you can use to reduce the risk of a breach.

Empower your devices/systems with quality Antivirus/AntiMalware tools

Advanced antivirus/malware tools are capable of detecting and preventing malware and malicious attacks. Most backdoors are installed through RATs, Trojans, and other types of malware, so it is essential to install a tool capable of detecting such threats.

Use a Firewall and Network Monitoring tool

Use an antivirus/antimalware solution that includes a firewall and network monitoring as a part of the security suite. If you are a business, ensure you implement a firewall that can limit access only to authorized users. Additionally, SMBs should be using a strong network monitoring tool or monitoring service that can help guarantee that any suspicious activity— such as unauthorized uploads or downloads—are flagged and mitigated.

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