What is a Remote Access Trojan?

Last updated on April 7th, 2024 at 08:05 am

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Do you know what a remote access Trojan is and why this type of malware is used in cybersecurity? Pen testing is a computer process that consists of testing the security of a system by means of techniques equivalent to those that a cybercriminal would use. The main difference is that an ethical hacker prepares a report of the security flaws found at the end of the pentest.

Thus, one of the main tasks of pen testing is to find a way to gain access to a target’s machine. To do this, it is possible to physically access the computer and execute tasks on it. However, it is also feasible to remotely access the machine and control it remotely with a computer.

Remote code execution is a task that is performed in the final phases of pen testing, before erasing the attacker’s tracks and preparing the security report. Through this technique, it is possible to exfiltrate sensitive data, deploy malware and perform any function with a compromised computer.

In this post, we will talk about a type of software designed to gain remote control of another machine. Next, we will explain what a remote access Trojan is, how it works and how it can be used in a penetration test.

What is a Remote Access Trojan?

A Remote Access Trojan is a type of malware that infiltrates machines by posing as some other program. Once the victim runs the malware thinking it is another application, it will work in the background without the system owner noticing. Meanwhile, the attackers will be able to execute any application, action or command on the computer.

Some people think that a remote access Trojan is a computer virus, but it’s actually just a piece of software that sits on your computer and tries to delete other software and steal passwords and credit card information. Fortunately, there are only two ways that most remote-access Trojans can really harm your computer – when that piece of software is deleted or when your computer runs out of memory.

Some known remote-access trojans are:

  • DarkComet.
  • SubSeven.
  • BackOrifice.
  • CyberGate.
  • ProRAT.
  • VortexRAT.

This type of malware is also known by the acronym RAT (Remote Access Trojan). Although they are very useful programs for attackers, they also have some limitations.

Limitations of a Remote Access Trojan

The main limitation that a Trojan has is the access path to the user and getting the user to download and install the hoax application. Despite the fact that many users fall into traps like this, certain cybersecurity habits can be highly effective in avoiding this type of software. The main recommendations are:

  • Do not visit suspicious pages and avoid websites that contain adware (malware in ads).
  • Do not download pirated programs from the Internet, even if they appear to come from a safe site.
  • Use a web application, such as VirusTotal, to scan files and URLs that you consider suspicious.
  • Use antivirus software on your computer.

Remote access in penetration tests

We have already seen what a remote access Trojan is and what its scope and limitations are. Now, we will talk about how to use this type of malware in ethical hacking or pen-testing exercises.

Obtaining remote access to a system can be a very interesting exercise for ethical hacking since it allows measuring the risk of a computer vulnerability. Using an exploit tool like Metasploit, it is possible to build a remote access Trojan virus and test it on a machine.


Now that you know what a remote access Trojan is and what its limitations are, we will talk about a method to create such malware for penetration testing.

In cybersecurity, one of the best-known tools is the Metasploit framework, which brings together thousands of programs to exploit vulnerabilities on a machine. This framework also contains software called payloads, which allow malicious tasks to be executed on a computer after it has infiltrated.

Meterpreter is a very powerful type of payload that is used to perform any action remotely on a machine. This program allows you to download, upload files, escalate privileges and run any application on the compromised computer.

Using the Metasploit Msfvenom tool, it is possible to create a Meterpreter-type payload executable that works when a user opens the application.

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