In order to have an educated discussion about rootkits, as opposed to security monitoring software, it is important to understand what they are, what they do and how they get on your computer. It’s also important to discuss the difference between security monitoring software and rootkits.
Most people are aware of the existence of viruses, worms and other malware, all of which can be harmful to your computer. Rootkits are another member of the malware family, perhaps the most harmful of them all. A rootkit is a software program that allows someone to control a computer from a remote location, without the person knowing their computer is infected and being hacked into. A person using a rootkit, also known as a hacker, is capable of executing files, accessing log files, changing the computer’s configuration and monitoring activity that occur on the other computer. Basically a rootkit allows you to spy on someone as they use their computer, picking up personal information and harming their computer in the process.
Security monitoring software, which is used by employers, law enforcement and, sometimes, parents, to monitor activities on another computer differs from a rootkit in that it is legal and there is no malicious intent in its use. For example, police officers sometimes use it to put a suspect under surveillance by monitoring their computer activities, which allows them to gather evidence which once required a court order to obtain.
Parents and employers use security monitoring software, which some mistakenly refer to as a rootkit, simply because they wish to monitor an employee’s or a family’s online activities. Parents often use security monitoring software simply to safeguard their children from the dangers of the internet, as children are notorious for not sharing information with their parents. Monitoring allows parents to see who their children are chatting with, what sites they’re visiting and what information they’re posting online; all important pieces of information parents might not have without the software. Employers generally use the same software to monitor employee e-mail, chatting and web usage; typically a warning that their activities may be monitored is part of an employee handbook.
The software employers, law enforcement and parents employ is perfectly legal and usually used as a protective measure where rootkits are illegal and used for malicious purposes. Rootkits can also destroy your computer where security monitoring software cannot do.