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How to remove the Spectre remote access trojan from your system?

Also Known As: Spectre remote access trojan
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is Spectre RAT?

Spectre is the name of a malicious program classified as a Remote Access Trojan (RAT). Malware of this type is designed to enable stealthy remote access and control over an infected machine. RATs can have a wide variety of heinous functionalities, which can be used in likewise varied ways.

Spectre operates as an information stealer, keylogger, clipper/swapper, backdoor, and it also has certain botnet features. This piece of malicious software is deemed to be highly dangerous, and as such - its infections must be removed immediately upon detection.

Spectre malware detections on VirusTotal

The Spectre RAT has anti-analysis and obfuscation functionalities. It can add compromised devices into a botnet that can then be used for a host of purposes. For example, to facilitate spam campaigns or deploy DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks.

The goal of these attacks is to make an online service inaccessible/unresponsive for users - by overloading its system with countless requests.

Spectre trojan has significant information stealing abilities. It collects device hardware data and installed program information. This malicious program can take screenshots. It can also locate files stored on the system (i.e., by filename and/or extension) and exfiltrate (download) them.

Should sensitive/compromising content be found - the cyber criminals can use it for ransom purposes. This RAT can extract stored passwords from FileZilla FTP (File Transfer Protocol) application and Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers.

In addition, from these browsers, Spectre can obtain browsing histories, Internet cookies, and autofill data. The malware can extract stored credit card details specifically from Chrome and Edge browsers. Another browser-related feature it has is opening websites on Chrome and Firefox.

The trojan has keylogging abilities, i.e., it can record key-strokes (typed information). Through the use of these information-stealing functions, criminals can steal various accounts, platforms, and services.

The stolen accounts can then be used to proliferate malware, ask the genuine owner's contacts for loans, make fraudulent transactions and online purchases.

Clipper/Swapper functionalities are employed to replace receiving cryptocurrency wallet addresses with those of cryptowallets belonging to the cyber criminals. In other words, when users attempt to make a cryptocurrency transaction - it is transferred to the criminals' wallets.

Spectre can replace Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monery cryptocurrency wallet addresses. This RAT can also function as a "backdoor" for other malware (e.g., ransomware, cryptominers, etc.) by infiltrating files into the system and subsequently executing them.

To summarize, Spectre infections can lead to multiple system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft. If it is suspected/known that Spectre (or other malware) has already infected the device - an anti-virus must be used to eliminate it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Spectre remote access trojan
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Detection Names Avast (Win64:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Exploit.Agent.ACW), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win64/Exploit.CVE-2017-5753.A), Kaspersky (Exploit.Win64.CVE-2017-5753.c), Microsoft (HackTool:Win32/SpectreSteal.A!dha), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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DarkCrystalNyan WormStrigoi Master, and Elephant are some examples of remote access trojans.

Malware can have a broad range of malicious functionalities, aiding it in controlling devices, causing chain infections (i.e., downloading/installing additional malicious programs), stealing content and information, spying, and so on.

The sole purpose of malware is to generate revenue for the individuals/groups behind it. Regardless of how malicious software operates, it must be eliminated immediately upon detection.

How did Spectre infiltrate my computer?

Since the Spectre RAT is offered for sale online, how exactly it is spread - depends on the cyber criminals using it.

Malicious programs are often disguised as or bundled with ordinary software/media, and then distributed via untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders).

Illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fake updates are prime examples of malware-proliferating content, typically obtained from such dubious sources. "Cracking" tools can cause infections (i.e., download/install malware) instead of activating licensed products.

Fake updaters infect systems by exploiting flaws of outdated programs and/or by installing malicious software rather than the promised updates.

Spam campaigns are also commonly used to spread malware. The term defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of scam emails are sent. These letters are usually presented as "official", "urgent", "important", "priority", and similar.

The deceptive emails contain download links of infectious files, and/or the files are simply attached to the emails. Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), JavaScript, and so forth.

When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection process is triggered.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is highly recommended to only use official and verified download channels. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers.

To avoid infecting the device via spam mail, it is expressly advised against opening suspicious and irrelevant emails - especially any attachments or links present in them. It is crucial to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up-to-date.

Furthermore, this software has to be used to run regular system scans and remove detected/potential threats and issues. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Appearance of Spectre RAT promoted online (GIF):

Spectre remote access trojan offered for sake on hacker forums (GIF)

Screenshots of Spectre RAT's administration panel:

Spectre remote access trojan admin panel 1 Spectre remote access trojan admin panel 2 Spectre remote access trojan admin panel 3

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK.

During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button.

Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button.

Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options".

In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names.

At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer.

Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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