Ratting – Remote Access Trojans

You use your computer or mobile device for many everyday private or confidential tasks, which is why it is essential to take precautions to protect it from viruses and spyware. One type of spyware becoming increasingly common is known as a RAT (Remote Access Trojan), which criminals can use to access your computer or mobile device to take control of it to obtain your private information or spy on you. This is known as ratting.

RATs are usually downloaded invisibly with a program requested by you – for example a game – or sent to you as an email attachment. They can perform actions similar to legitimate software. RATs can be difficult to detect because neither do they usually show up in lists of the programs or tasks you are using, nor can you generally notice that they are affecting your device’s performance.

RATs being used to take control of webcams is becoming increasingly common, with the objective of the resulting video or images being used for blackmail or other inappropriate purposes.

The risks

  • Being spied on (including being recorded) via your own webcam. In some cases, they are designed to do so without activating the indicator light, so you are unaware that you are being watched.
  • Having your online behaviour monitored (including which websites you are visiting, who you are emailing, what you are typing.
  • Having your confidential information accessed – including bank account and social security details.
  • Being used as part of a botnet to distribute viruses and other malware.
  • Having your computer drives formatted.
  • Having your files and file systems deleted, downloaded or altered.

How to avoid ratting

  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running whenever your computer or mobile device is switched on.
  • Do not be tempted to download programs or apps that are not from a trusted source, as they could contain RATs and other malware.
  • Download updates to your programs and apps when prompted to do so … they often include security fixes.
  • Take great care about which links you click on in emails – they may be phishing.
  • Take great care about opening attachments in emails, even if they seem to be from people you know.
  • Avoid suspicious website and torrent downloading. Many such downloads are not only against the law but also a major gateway for this type of cyber-attack.
  • Cover your webcam when not in use, whether it is a built-in or clip-on device.

If you think you have been the victim of being spied on via your webcam

Report the incident to your local police.

See Also...

Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:


Software posing as an authentic application, which actually conceals an item of malware. Term comes from Trojan Horse in Greek mythology.


To obtain content from the internet, as an email attachment or from a remote computer, to your own hard drive.


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