The Virus Lab – What is a Rootkit?


Rootkits are malicious programs that are designed to allow continued access to your computer, while actively hiding themselves and other harmful programs or processes. Often loaded through Trojan Horses, rootkits start on your PC with “user” level access. Once in, they can spy on passwords and gain administrator level access. From this highest level of access to your PC, different executable files can be placed onto your PC thereby commanding it to run differently.

Where does the name come from?

The rootkit was originally created to allow administrative level access to a device. Not all rootkits are malicious, and can provide us with helpful programs with remote connections. The term brings together “root” and “kit”; with root referring to the Admin account on Unix or Linux systems, and kit refers to the software for the tool.

Traits of a Rootkit:

  • Going undetected for ages – rootkits are especially good at hiding: they are actually stealing your passwords and personal data.
  • Commanding your PC to run differently through executable files – rootkits can begin their work before your Windows operating system is fully on, helping the rootkit hide from antivirus programs.
  • Masquerading as administrators – it is virtually impossible to remove rootkits while your operating system is on – that’s where the FixMeStick comes in!

How to Avoid a Rootkit Infection:

  • Do run a routine FixMeStick scan.
  • Do consistently update your operating system, anti-virus software , and FixMeStick.
  • Don’t open email attachments from unknown senders or strange emails.
  • Don’t click on pop-ups.
  • Don’t visit suspicious websites.

Want to learn more about the different types of computer viruses? Check out other blogs in our Virus Lab series below!

What is Malware and Why Does it Exist?
What is Spyware?
What is a Backdoor?
What is Scareware?