In the wake of the OPM hack, where reports suggest that millions of security clearance records headed directly to Chinese intelligence units, let’s talk about remote administrator tools (RATs). These tools are commonly used in this type of attack, so we'll walk through a common methodology for identifying unknown RATs.
In the broadest sense, RATs are used to remotely access and control computers. System administrators often use these tools for good, but black hats develop specialized RATs that infect, hide, and act as back doors.
Malicious RATs like PlugX, Gh0st, Korplug, Gulpix, Sogu, Thoper, and Destory can be built as zero day attacks that avoid signature detection. The Gh0st RAT user interface (UI), shown below, gives some insight into how easily hackers can build zero day variants to infect sensitive machines. Once infected, command-and-control can be established from anywhere on the internet, with traffic re-routed through servers to avoid identification of the true perpetrator.