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O'Reilly Network: Understanding Rootkits

Dec 20, 2001, 20:55 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Oktay Altunergil)
"A rootkit is a collection of tools an intruder brings along to a victim computer after gaining initial access. A rootkit generally contains network sniffers, log-cleaning scripts, and trojaned replacements of core system utilities such as ps, netstat, ifconfig, and killall. Although the intruders still need to break into a victim system before they can install their rootkits, the ease-of-use and the amount of destruction they cause make rootkits a big threat for system administrators.

The main purpose of a rootkit is to allow intruders to come back to the compromised system later and access it without being detected. A rootkit makes this very easy by installing a backdoor remote-access daemon, such as a modified version of telnetd or sshd. These will often run on a different port than the one that these daemons listen on by default.

Most rootkits also come with modified system binaries that replace the existing ones on the target system. At a minimum, core binaries such as ps, w, who, netstat, ls, find , and other binaries that can be used in monitoring server activity, are replaced so intruders and the processes they run are invisible to an unsuspecting system administrator."

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