Attacks

What is a Backdoor Attack?

What is a Backdoor Attack?

Capable of causing damage beyond control, the backdoor method of attack uses the pre-existing weak points to exploit the network or systems. More details on it are given in the post.

Learning Objectives

What is a Backdoor?

The simplest backdoor attack definition is using any malware/virus/technology to gain unauthorized access to the application/system/network while bypassing all the implemented security measures. Unlike other kinds of viruses/malware, backdoor attack elements reach the core of the targeted application and often drive the aimed resource as a driver or key administrator.

When access to such a deep and crucial level is earned, damage possibilities are endless. Attackers can change the entire or partial infrastructure, make the targeted system work/behave as per their will, and steal crucial data.

The impact of these actions could be highly detrimental. Hence, one is always suggested to remain vigilant about the presence of related threat actors and learn about how to mitigate backdoor attacks.

How it Works?

The working of backdoor attacks depends on the way they enter the system. As observed, the most common ways, using which a backdoor can enter into a system, are using malware or using backdoor-specific software/hardware. A detailed explanation of these two is as quoted below.

  1. Backdoor malware

An imposter piece of technology, this malware pretends to be something else so that actions like data theft, malware installation, and creating a backdoor into the systems can be performed seamlessly.

It is also Called backdoor Trojan for its behavioral similarity with Trojans that permit an attacker to reach the core infrastructure of an application/software/network. To understand it better, you must know how Trojan operates. 

A Trojan is a file with malicious content and can be to use and can be delivered in the form of an email attachment, downloadable file, cyber threats like malware, and so on. To make things worse, Trojans have worm-like abilities that make them competent to replicate and expand. Without demanding any further efforts, Trojan can spread to other systems as well.

Regardless of guises, each sort of Trojan is harmful and has the potential to cause serious damage to the target.

  1. Built-in or proprietary backdoors

Think of it as a backdoor to be used by property owners in the case of an emergency. Such types of backdoors are deployed by software or hardware professionals and do not always have ill intentions. They exist as a component of the software and permits owners/developers to gain instant access to the application/software. 

This immediate access helps them to test a code, fix a software bug, and even detect any hidden vulnerability without being involved in the real/authenticated account creation process. 

Mostly, they aren’t removed before the final product launch or delivery. At times, they are made secure in order to give instant access to a few users only. But, there are incidents where built-in backdoors are delivered with the original software by fault or negligence.

Backdoor attack work

Different Kinds of Backdoors

Backdoors are of various kinds and each one has a different line of attack.

  1. Cryptographic backdoors

Consider a cryptographic backdoor as a master key useful to unbolt everything hidden behind the encrypted data. Most commonly, data is protected via AES-256 Bit encryption or other algorithms. In this or any other encryption, both the communicating parties are awarded a cryptographic key used to decrypt the data and intercept it. 

Cryptographic backdoor breaks into this mechanism and access that crucial cryptographic key and access the secured information before anyone else.

  1. Hardware backdoors

Such backdoors use hardware components like chips, CPUs, hard drives, and others to break into a system. Using the modified hardware components, hackers try to gain root-level access to the targeted system. Other than computer-related hardware, many other outside devices like phones, home security systems, thermostats, can also act as a hardware backdoor, if they feature any altered hardware part and are linked with a system. 

Most commonly, such backdoors are used for data access, surveillance, and remote access.

  1. Rootkits

A bit advanced malware-type, rootkits allow hackers to conceal their activities completely from the targeted OS and force it to grant root-level access. Once that’s granted, hackers are allowed to operate the system remotely and perform end-less actions like downloading systems, modifying the file, monitoring every activity, and everything else. 

What makes rootkits dangerous is their ability to take the form of any used software or computer chips. And, the job is done so perfectly that it’s hard to detect them. Multiple types of rootkits exist. 

For instance, there is a kernel-mode root-kit that plays with the kernel of the OS. Then, we have a user -rootkit that is deployed in the user-space of the system. Bootloader rootkit is a version of kernel-rootkit and hampers the MBR or Master Boot Record of the system.

  1. Trojans

As quoted above, Trojan malware feigns. Such files fake to be verified files so that the aimed system/computer grants them access. Each time software is downloaded, a command “allow insert-program-here to make changes on your device?” displays on the screen. 

Usually, Trojan files remain hidden at this stage and once the permission is granted, Trojans are installed on the system and a backdoor is created. Using the back-door hackers/attackers became capable to gain admin-like access to the system and do whatever they want to do.

Backdoor Attack Example 

Backdoor attacks are all around us and are happening now and then. The most notorious ones are mentioned next.

  • In 2017, a DoublePulsar was detected to have backdoor malware. It allowed others to keep an eye on Windows PCs. With its help, threat attackers could install powerful crucial cryptojacker featuring high memory. The purpose was to mine Bitcoin. Hence, a huge chain of crypto-mining botnets was created because of a single cryptojacker.
  • Dual-EC backdoor attack happened by exploiting the pre-existed vulnerability in this cryptographical protocol. High-level end-users of Dual-EC can decrypt it via a secret key. The adoption of this protocol was promoted by NSA as the agency was able to read and intercept all the communication happening using Dual_EC. This way, millions of people came under the NSA radar automatically.
  • PoisonTap is a well-known example of backdoor attack. In this, hackers used malware to gain root-level access to any website, including those protected with 2FA.  
  • WordPress was spotted with multiple backdoors in 2014. These backdoors were WordPress plug-ins featuring an obfuscated JavaScript code. Once such infected plugins were installed on the system, they were used to create a hidden admin account and steal the data.
  • Borland Interbase featured built-in backdoors in its versions 4.0 to 6.0. The backdoor was hard-coded and created multiple backdoor accounts accessible via networks. Anyone using these backdoor accounts was able to figure out everything stored on the Interbase database. Finally, it was fixed in 2001.
  • In 2008, all the OS versions, above from 6.2.0, of Juniper Networks, were having backdoors that enabled hackers to gain admin-like access.
  • C-DATA Optical Line Termination devices were laced with multiple backdoors, as spotted by security researchers. As per them, these backdoors were deployed on purpose by the vendor.

How is Backdoor used by Hackers?

Based upon the technique used, the backdoor can empower hackers greatly and allow them to create worrisome nuisances like:

  • Spyware

It is a dangerous malware type as its installation allows a hacker to record and monitor everything you do using the infected computer/device. Be it the website you visit or files you create, the hacker will have access to everything.

Ransomware is the digital version of a real-world ransom threat and involves complete shut-down of the infected resources like system, server, and network till the asked ransom amount is paid. Generally, the ransom is asked in cryptocurrency to maintain secrecy.

Cryptojacking malware is a malware type targeting the cryptocurrency and refers to using other’s systems/networks/internet connections to mine the cryptocurrencies.

How to Prevent a Backdoor Attack?

Prevention is better than cure. Hence, one must be aware of some viable backdoor attack preventive ways, which are stated next.

  • Make sure the allowed failed login attempts are limited and a firewall is at a place to forbid unlicensed access.  
  • Have a stringent network monitoring policy in place. Make sure you audit the security solutions, monitor the network and update the technology as per the need of the hour. Network resources should be protected by 2FA protection.
  • An anti-malware program is useful to keep malicious content at bay. It will automatically detect and eliminate dangers like viruses, malware, Trojans, and so on and keep the system protected. As everything happens automatically, not much effort is required.
  • Stop accessing unauthorized and unverified websites/content over the internet. Especially, one should take extra precautions while accessing free websites/software. Such places are a hub for viruses and ill-intended content and can cause serious damage to your system.
  • A good-quality password manager helps to create strong and complex access passwords and manage them. We all know that a robust password is hard to break and hackers will have a tough time bypassing its protection. But, creating and managing such a password for all of the websites and resources you use is indeed a tough job. With the help of a password manager, one can make it happen with ease.
  • Update your OS and software at-service as updated resources can fight the attack attempts in a better way.
  • With the help of a firewall, things could be way better than earlier as this piece of technology will keep an eye on all the incoming and outgoing traffic and take immediate action when anything suspicious is noticed.

Preventing backdoor attacks with Wallarm 

Wallarm is a highly inventive API security and threat prevention solution enabling organizations to keep crucial digital assets secured and protected in the time of vulnerabilities. To keep the backdoor attacks at bay, Wallarm offers a feature-rich cloud WAF and API Security Platform that can protect all the leading API types like REST, SOAP, GraphQL, and many more. Along with the APIs, it can safeguard serverless workloads from the dangers of backdoor attacks.

Speaking of its threat prevention capabilities, it can keep threats like OWASP Top 10 Threats, account takeover, API abuse, misconfiguration possibilities, and business logic attacks far away from you.

The WAF is designed with such perfection that end-users don’t have to invest huge efforts in its setup and configuration. Only minor DNS settings alterations are required to bring it into action. It’s packed with the most inventive techniques like robust bypass endurance, LibDetection, and RegExps-free operations.

It’s a fully-automated solution having the ability to perform quick passive and black-box scans. As it’s a highly-integrated solution, your organization’s cybersecurity professionals can use it with existing arrangements related to DevOps & digital safety. It’s the best solution to ensure that you are well-prepared when it comes to backdoor network attacks.

Subscribe for the latest news