The Rat Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

Avoid this nasty Trojan

A conceptual illustration of the RAT virus destroying a laptop computer.
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

Is your computer acting a little strangely so you're worried you've been infected with a virus? You may be the victim of a remote access Trojan (otherwise known as RAT). Here's everything you need to know about it, and how to remove the threat. 

RAT is a type of malware that primarily affects Windows-based PCs and Android smartphones. They can also affect MacOS-based systems but it's much less common. 

What Is the RAT Virus?

The RAT Virus is a type of malware program that creates a virtual back door on your computer. That back door provides hackers with remote access to your system whenever they want to take advantage of it. 

It's similar to legitimate remote access programs that your tech support line may use, but it's uncontrolled and very unsafe. 

While the malware itself isn't strictly an issue, the way in which it opens up your computer to attack is very dangerous. 

How Does RAT Work?

A RAT malware opens up all the ports and access methods on your computer so hackers can easily control your computer or phone from a remote location. 

If untouched, it's not dangerous but it's highly likely that a hacker will find your 'open' computer and access it, potentially stealing files, valuable passwords, online banking details, and causing significant disruption to your computer. They can even wipe your hard drive or perform illegal activities in your name. 

It's vital that you delete the threat quickly so that your system isn't inappropriately accessed by nefarious sources. 

How Do I Know if I Have the Rat Virus?

RAT Viruses are difficult to spot once installed on your computer. That's because they don't usually show up in lists of running programs or tasks on your system. They also rarely slow down your computer, and most hackers won't give themselves away by deleting your files or moving your cursor while you're looking. 

It's potentially possible for a PC or smartphone to be infected for a number of years. 

That's why it's important to run regular antivirus software scans or use malware detection tools to spot any potential issues before they get worse. 

How Did I Get the Rat Virus?

RAT viruses come from fairly obvious sources. They can come attached to emails from unusual sources, via suspicious websites, or by downloading files or programs from torrenting sites. 

Occasionally, pop-up adverts and nefarious websites can contain RAT viruses. Generally, though, most web browsers prevent automatic downloads from websites. 

Typically, RATs aren't very easy to catch providing you follow sensible steps when browsing online. 

How Do I Get Rid of the RAT Virus?

The best way to both detect if you have a RAT virus and remove it is to use antivirus software. It's also worth using a malware removal app to double-check, and potentially seek out any malware or adware that a hacker may have deliberately installed on your computer. 

Antivirus software often takes several hours to complete a scan, depending on the speed of your computer, but it's a highly effective way of checking your PC is secure. 

Malware removal tools are a useful addition to your arsenal, especially if a hacker has installed extra malware without you realizing it.  

Similar to antivirus software, malware scanning can take many hours depending on the size of your computer's hard drive, as well as its speed.

It's also possible to use System Restore to return to an earlier time period on your computer. Be sure to choose a date when you know you definitely didn't already have the virus on your computer otherwise you'll re-infect yourself. 

Given the potential dangers of having a RAT virus installed, it can be sensible to reformat and reinstall your operating system, providing you know how. It's the best guarantee that you've completely deleted the Trojan from your device. 

It can take a long time to reinstall your operating system and it requires a certain amount of knowledge to do so. Don't rush into the decision; try all other methods first. 

How Can I Avoid Getting the RAT Virus Again?

The RAT Virus is a particularly nasty form of Trojan but it's fairly easy to avoid, providing you follow some sensible tips when browsing. 

To avoid this type of Trojan as well as other viruses, here are the best methods of avoiding threats. 

  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. Most anti-virus apps will update themselves automatically. Let them do this. Companies release new virus definitions daily. These keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware-based threats, protecting you further still. 
  • Don't download suspicious files. RAT viruses stay hidden among disreputable files and websites. Stick to well-known sites and be careful about what you choose to download. Always run an antivirus scan if you're concerned. 
  • Don't open suspicious email attachments. Even if it's from someone you know, run a virus check first before opening it. Their account may have been spoofed or hijacked.