Microsoft | Microsoft Sysinternals Rootkit Revealer 1.71
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The reason that there is no longer a command-line version is that malware authors have started targetting RootkitRevealer's scan by using its executable name. We've therefore updated RootkitRevealer to execute its scan from a randomly named copy of itself that runs as a Windows service. This type of execution is not conducive to a command-line interface. Note that you can use command-line options to execute an automatic scan with results logged to a file, which is the equivalent of the command-line version's behavior.
What is a Rootkit?
The term rootkit is used to describe the mechanisms and techniques whereby malware, including viruses, spyware, and trojans, attempt to hide their presence from spyware blockers, antivirus, and system management utilities. There are several rootkit classifications depending on whether the malware survives reboot and whether it executes in user mode or kernel mode.
A persistent rootkit is one associated with malware that activates each time the system boots. Because such malware contain code that must be executed automatically each system start or when a user logs in, they must store code in a persistent store, such as the Registry or file system, and configure a method by which the code executes without user intervention.
Memory-based rootkits are malware that has no persistent code and therefore does not survive a reboot.
There are many methods by which rootkits attempt to evade detection. For example, a user-mode rootkit might intercept all calls to the Windows FindFirstFile/FindNextFile APIs, which are used by file system exploration utilities, including Explorer and the command prompt, to enumerate the contents of file system directories. When an application performs a directory listing that would otherwise return results that contain entries identifying the files associated with the rootkit, the rootkit intercepts and modifies the output to remove the entries.
The Windows native API serves as the interface between user-mode clients and kernel-mode services and more sophisticated user-mode rootkits intercept file system, Registry, and process enumeration functions of the Native API. This prevents their detection by scanners that compare the results of a Windows API enumeration with that returned by a native API enumeration.
Kernel-mode rootkits can be even more powerful since, not only can they intercept the native API in kernel-mode, but they can also directly manipulate kernel-mode data structures. A common technique for hiding the presence of a malware process is to remove the process from the kernel's list of active processes. Since process management APIs rely on the contents of the list, the malware process will not display in process management tools like Task Manager or Process Explorer.
How RootkitRevealer Works
Since persistent rootkits work by changing API results so that a system view using APIs differs from the actual view in storage, RootkitRevealer compares the results of a system scan at the highest level with that at the lowest level. The highest level is the Windows API and the lowest level is the raw contents of a file system volume or Registry hive (a hive file is the Registry's on-disk storage format). Thus, rootkits, whether user mode or kernel mode, that manipulate the Windows API or native API to remove their presence from a directory listing, for example, will be seen by RootkitRevealer as a discrepancy between the information returned by the Windows API and that seen in the raw scan of a FAT or NTFS volume's file system structures.
Can a Rootkit hide from RootkitRevealer
It is theoretically possible for a rootkit to hide from RootkitRevealer. Doing so would require intercepting RootkitRevealer's reads of Registry hive data or file system data and changing the contents of the data such that the rootkit's Registry data or files are not present. However, this would require a level of sophistication not seen in rootkits to date. Changes to the data would require both an intimate knowledge of the NTFS, FAT and Registry hive formats, plus the ability to change data structures such that they hide the rootkit, but do not cause inconsistent or invalid structures or side-effect discrepancies that would be flagged by RootkitRevealer.
Is there a sure-fire way to know of a rootkit's presence
In general, not from within a running system. A kernel-mode rootkit can control any aspect of a system's behavior so information returned by any API, including the raw reads of Registry hive and file system data performed by RootkitRevealer, can be compromised. While comparing an on-line scan of a system and an off-line scan from a secure environment such as a boot into an CD-based operating system installation is more reliable, rootkits can target such tools to evade detection by even them.
The bottom line is that there will never be a universal rootkit scanner, but the most powerful scanners will be on-line/off-line comparison scanners that integrate with antivirus.
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