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(also backdoor attack)

Backdoor definition

A backdoor is an undocumented way to bypass existing cybersecurity measures and gain access to the target system. While viruses and malware can introduce backdoors into a system as part of an escalating cyberattack, software and hardware makers sometimes install backdoors into their own products to retain access in edge cases (for example, when users lock themselves out or the device holds data required for a criminal investigation.)

Backdoors are dangerous because they allow criminals to infiltrate systems without detection. An attacker using a backdoor avoids tripping any alarms and is treated like a regular (and, in many cases, high-level) user. This means that hackers can not only steal data. They can also compromise the system’s security measures against future attacks.

Real backdoor examples

2005: Soly BGM issued CDs containing a copy protection rootkit that installed a backdoor on users’ devices.

2014: SerComm was suspected of introducing a backdoor to the Netgear and Linksys routers that the company assembled.

2014: A backdoor was discovered in Samsung’s mobile devices (including the company’s line of Galaxy phones.)

Preventing a backdoor attack

  • Use a reliable antivirus to detect, isolate, and remove viruses from your device. If you discover a virus known to install backdoors, thoroughly check the system for any unauthorized changes.
  • Follow cybersecurity news for alerts about exposed backdoors. If you are worried that a particular device is in danger, do not connect it to any network until it has been patched.
  • Regularly update your operating system and apps. Security updates close known vulnerabilities and can prevent malware from getting a hold of your device.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security