Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


05:30 PM
Connect Directly

New Tactic Finds RAT Operators Fast

Low tolerance for latency makes RAT operators less likely to use proxies, easier to track back home.

By proactively using large-scale Internet enumeration, law enforcement and security teams may be able to stop operators of remote access Trojans (RATs) like DarkComet, Poison Ivy, Havex, and AlienSpy before they even launch their attack campaigns, according to a new report by Recorded Future.

The kind of data RATs often deal with require a lot of bandwidth -- photos, audio recordings, video from Webcams, etc. -- and therefore, RAT controllers are generally less tolerant of latency, according to Levi Gundert, author of Recorded Future's report. Since they're less tolerant of latency, they're less likely to operate through proxies, so compared to other kinds of malware, there are a disproportionate number of RATs that are run from residential ISP subnets.  

As Gundert explains, starting from a data point like this makes attribution quicker and easier. It may make it possible for law enforcement to cut off RAT attacks before operators use the information they've collected for further nefarious aims, like blackmail or silencing political dissidents, he says.   

Using this technique, Gundert says it was very easy for Record Future to attribute RAT operations to Oxford, U.K. resident Daniel James Brown (and find his street address, blood type, and the name of his dog), for instance. Other organizations were similarly able to point to RAT specific operators by username and/or location.

Shodan typically identifies between 400 and 600 individual RAT clients on any day, according to the Recorded Future report. A recent data set pulled from Shodan was overwhelmingly dominated by Dark Comet, followed by XtremeRAT, njRAT, and Net Bus. Poison Ivy and BlackShades barely made the list.

Although some RATs are created for use by nation-states and others for use by individual criminals, "threat actors continue to leverate commodity RATs even after the original author has been apprehended," because they're easy to configure, highly reusable, and proven to be effective against anti-virus, according to the report. 

"They're all open-source to some degree," says Gundert. "They've all been co-opted to some degree."

Although njRAT and Xtreme RAT are used almost exclusively in the Middle East, he says, most RATs have been used "by kids to spy on females," he says.

And even after the major BlackShades sting in May 2014 where 90 people were arrested, Blackshades is still limping along: Gundert says he knows of two controllers in Turkey.

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 10:39:32 AM
Playing with fire
Lets be honest....even though RAT's involve high bandwidth if you don't go through the process of trying to create anonymity through proxies you are do yourself a giant disservice as a malicious intender. Not that I am complaining about this fact.

How prevalent are RAT's (all encompassing) in business? It seems like many of the times they are used to exploit single cases.
A Startup With NSA Roots Wants Silently Disarming Cyberattacks on the Wire to Become the Norm
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/11/2021
Cybersecurity: What Is Truly Essential?
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  5/12/2021
3 Cybersecurity Myths to Bust
Etay Maor, Sr. Director Security Strategy at Cato Networks,  5/11/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Google Maps is taking "interactive" to a whole new level!
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A heap based buffer overflow vulneraibility exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via bit_calc_CRC ../../src/bits.c:2213.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A heap based buffer overflow vulnerability exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via read_2004_compressed_section ../../src/decode.c:2417.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A heap based buffer overflow vulnerability exits in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via: read_2004_section_classes ../../src/decode.c:2440.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A null pointer deference issue exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via get_bmp ../../programs/dwgbmp.c:164.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A null pointer deference issue exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via read_2004_compressed_section ../../src/decode.c:2337.