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What is a backdoor attack?

Affan Malik

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

Backdoor attack

The simplest definition of a backdoor attack is to use malware or viruses to gain unauthorized access to applications, systems, and networks to bypass all security measures. Unlike other types of malware, backdoor attack elements reach the core of the targeted application. They often drive the targeted resource as a driver or critical administrator.

When access reaches such a deep and essential level, the potential for damage is endless. An attacker can modify all or part of the infrastructure, operate the targeted system at will, and steal sensitive data.

An illustration of how a backdoor attack works

Types of backdoor attacks

There are different types of backdoors, each with a different line of attack. Here are some examples of different types of backdoors that are commonly used:

  • A cryptographic backdoor acts as a master key. It helps to decrypt everything behind the encrypted data. Most commonly, data is protected using AES 256-bit encryption or other algorithms. With this encryption or other types, both the communicating parties are assigned an encryption key to decrypt and intercept the data.
  • A hardware backdoor is a modified computer chip or hardware that allows non-users to access the device. This includes phones, IoT devices such as thermostats, home security systems, routers, and computers. Hardware backdoors can send user data, provide remote access, or monitor. The most common uses for such backdoors are data access, monitoring, and remote access.
  • Trojans are malware files disguised as legitimate files for accessing devices. Such files pretend to be validated files for the target system to grant access. After clicking the prompt "Do you want to allow changes to the device?," the Trojan installs itself on the system, creating a backdoor. Backdoors allow hackers/attackers to gain administrator-like access to the system and do whatever they want.
  • Rootkits are an advanced malware threat that hides activity from the operating system and allows the operating system to grant security privileges (root access) to the rootkit. Rootkits allow hackers to remotely access devices, modify files, monitor activity, and disrupt systems. Rootkits are dangerous in their ability to take the form of used software or computer chips.

Prevention

There are numerous ways to defend against backdoor threats, some of which are listed below:

  • Installing antivirus and anti-malware software on all systems.
  • Carefully select applications and plugins. The applications and plugins chosen should be from trusted sources.
  • Ensure a firewall is set up that limits unsuccessful login attempts and prohibits unlicensed access.
  • Stop access to unauthorized and unverified websites/content over the Internet. Be extra careful when accessing free websites/software.
  • Use a firm password policy. Additionally, use a high-quality password manager to help create and manage robust and complex access passwords.
  • Updated resources are good at repelling attack attempts, so regularly update the operating system and software on the fly.

RELATED TAGS

cyber security
backdoor
attack
network security
malware

CONTRIBUTOR

Affan Malik
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Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

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