Best Free Rootkit Scanner and Remover

 
Introduction

My co-worker John C from our east coast office came across a page on Malwarebytes' forums and thought I would share since we are putting together our tools for threat removal. The use of italics is my clumsy way of differentiating what I'm writing to Gizmo's readers and what I published to colleagues. Here is the page Malware Removal Guides and Self Help Guides.

If you read the first post it refers to Chameleon. This is a tool within Malwarebytes that can find and stop running processes form malware and is very useful on fake alert threats. Chameleon is in a sub folder within the Malwarebytes' main folder.

Below are my testing results that I published to my colleagues with some edits in order to present this to you in an easier to understand language. We are all IT folk so I tend to write to them differently than I would write to Gizmo's readers. Below I speak about System Check which is a rather nasty fake alert. In my next upcoming post I am going to present some methods for removal of these threats along with reviews of Rootkit Scanners. It has been very busy at work and I perform testing in my spare time, of which there has been very little. But I wanted to share this with you so you can add Chameleon to your USB stick.

Below, MBAM is short for Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. And Rkill is another tool for stopping processes which I will comment on later. The next two paragraphs are from my letter to co-workers:

I tested Chameleon on System Check which is worse than most of the fake alerts in that it hides, everything. I stepped through the instructions listed in the first post of the link provided. I clicked the first box and it opened a small DOS window and then proceeds to kill processes and then update and run MBAM. All of this worked great, and had an unexpected side effect. When it killed the process I think it also killed the ability of this ‘New and Improved’ System Check from deactivating your partitions. I rebooted and came right back into Windows albeit with a black desktop and everything hidden, but it booted!! (But keep in mind, I ran this right after infection, your user will have rebooted probably. More on this below.) I didn’t clean it when MBAM ran this first time because John found that you can run Chameleon as a standalone from your USB stick, and I wanted to test. Sure enough, I copied the whole Chameleon folder over and ran the file from there. Chameleon worked just as it did before, perfect.

So this will be a permanent addition to my USB stick. This will give us the ability to stop the processes fake alerts are running right from your USB and then be able to install and run MBAM without it being compromised. Rkill works much the same way, but is a bit dicey when it runs. In order to shutdown what’s running it will actually rename files. This can be bad however because now MBAM or whatever is being used may not find the renamed file. I would always note the path from Rkill and rename it back to original so MBAM could find it.

I have other news I wanted to share with you about a tool I'm building that will reverse the damage done by the these fake alerts like System Check I refer to above, when they hide all of your menus and folders. I had posted it here but it was too lengthy. I will post a link to it so that you can read it at your leisure. Until than please check out Chameleon as it will be a good addition to any USB stick.

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Discussion

There are a lot of anti-rootkit programs available, a lot of this software is very advanced and requires an experienced and technical minded user who is familiar with computers and operating systems. However, there are a couple of options that do not require much technical ability and are also very effective.

Kaspersky TDSSKillerThe new Top pick is Kaspersky TDSSKiller. It has an easy to use GUI, fast scan times, great detection rate and is user friendly.

TDSS Killer managed to detect and remove all modern rootkits tested (TDSS, Zeus, TDLV4, etc). The only down side is TDSS Killer seems to have a narrow range of the rootkits it detects but hopefully more types will be added over time. If more strains are added this may become the definitive tool for removal of rootkits.

In my testing what it’s designed to scan for it finds every time and removes it easily and positively. The positives far outweigh the negatives on this one. TDSS Killer also includes 64 bit functionality which is a huge plus.

 

GMERRootRepealI have two top choices for all the experienced and technical users GMER and RootRepeal. These are very popular applications, but it takes someone pretty knowledgeable about computer systems to be able to interpret the results. You can find a lot of documentation on both programs but if you are the type of person (like me) who likes to click the scan button and simply wait for the results, you would be better served with TDSS Killer.

For the average user I cannot recommend either of these as without comprehensive computer knowledge the results would be very hard to interpret. I even have a hard time understanding the data. In my work I usually have no time to refer to the documentation and must move quickly to restore a computer to working condition. However, if a particularly difficult infection is present these tools are invaluable because of the wealth of information. I prefer GMER as I find the initial scanning process easier to use and it had a better detection rate han RootRepeal.

 

Avast Anti-Rootkit Avast Anti-Rootkit resembles a command prompt window but is fairly easy to use. It lets you scan your computer and MBR for rootkits and even fixes any issues. Understanding the output from Avast Anti-rootkit may be a little hard for some users but it does the job well. I tested it against TDSS and several other modern rootkits and it found all of them. Removal on the other hand was not as good as some of the other tools. But what it does have is a very useful tool that I personally would not be without; the ability to perform FixMBR right from within Windows. Normally one would have to boot to a Windows XP disc or Windows 7 recovery disc to perform this command but Avast Anti-Rootkit has a built in ‘FixMBR’ button that with one click will write a new Master Boot Record which is often necessary in the removal of rootkits. This is very useful as you may not always have a Windows disc on hand in the field. I keep this on my USB drive at all times.

 

Dr.Web CureIt!The next product that I looked at is one that I always keep in my toolkit. Dr.Web CureIt! is not a standalone anti-rootkit tool like the other tools I recommended, rather it is a free malware scanner and removal tool that happens to be pretty effective at removing some rootkits but doesn’t detect the modern threats in my testing. It is always a good idea to have more than one tool capable of removal, so Dr. Web's freeware scanner is a great addition to anybody's arsenal. What I have found useful is the sandbox environment it creates when it’s run. This is good as it stops all processes  that some malware may try to run. It is also able to deep scan your drive and you can reboot back into this environment for further scanning and removal.

 
Other Rootkit Scanners and Removers

Sophos Anti-Rootkit Sophos Anti-Rootkit has a small but easy to use interface with no options other than choosing where you want to scan. As it scans it opens up to a slightly larger interface where it lists the results of the scan and gives you information about each result as well as a recommendation for them. Additionally, a small help file is available that explains the program in a little more detail and gives directions on how to use the command line anti-rootkit tool which is also included. This would be a great tool if it was kept up-to-date but in my testing it failed to find or remove any of the modern threats I tested.

 

F-Secure BlacklightF-Secure Blacklight is another great tool for rootkit removal. Unfortunately, support for it ended a couple of years ago. However, you can still download it on the F-Secure web site and it is compatible with Windows Vista and XP.

Still works well for older rootkits but gives "Incompatible" error if ran on Windows 7. Blacklight is also unable to detect most modern rootkits and therefore, I recommend one of the other tools for now.

 

Prevx FreePrevx Free, the free version of Prevx, offers the same class leading real time detection of the full version but unfortunately it doesn't offer much more than this. Prevx Free is only capable of cleaning select infections, such as Adware, the ZEUS banking trojan, and MBR rootkits. When dealing with rootkits detection is definitely very important, so even if you can't clean all infections you might at least be alerted, enabling you to take further action and manually remove the rootkit or seek help in doing so. As hard as it is to detect the newer, ever evolving rootkits and viruses, Prevx can be a very powerful and informative addition to your regular anti-virus software.

Additionally, Prevx Free can run customized scans from the context menu and also gives you the ability to schedule scans. Another plus is that it scans quickly. The free version also offers protection of stored cookies as well as protection for all of your saved credentials. There is also a browser protection component in the free version but it only offers custom protection on only one web site of your choice. It does however, give the full Prevx Safe Online protection, which includes anti-phishing, protection against hijacks, keyloggers, and cookie stealers for a number of popular websites such as PayPal, or Amazon and of course the one website of your choice.

I have included the previous editor’s information above but would note that given the limited functionality of Prevx Free, I mainly use it for detection. Often I need to not only detect but to remove in one scan using one tool.

As I mentioned above I will leave links to the applications mentioned here as they might work for you and be your favorites. I don’t want to discourage the use of any of them but the ones I haven’t had much success with are in the Other Scanners section; so I cannot recommend them. If they work for you that’s great and I would love to hear of your successes in the comments section.

Along with my goal to provide help is also to give you only what I have found that works. I am always open however to learning of new methods and tools. I love tools and am a firm believer that you cannot have too many. In the ever changing world of threat removal we need many tools to detect and remove.

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Kaspersky TDSSKiller
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to use GUI, high detection rate, removed all infected files in tests and is 64 bit compatible.
Limited scope and range of types of rootkits detected.
3.0.0.14
1870 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
Windows
GMER
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Considered class-leading technology.
No help file, but information online. Not suitable for average users.
http://www.gmer.net/
http://www.gmer.net/
2.1.19163
369 KB ZIP
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 2000 to 8
Avast Anti-Rootkit
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Works well. Detects most rootkits, easy to use. ‘FixMBR’ function within Windows is invaluable; a must have on any USB flash drive.
Results sometimes hard to interpret and removal failed on some rootkits.
http://www.avast.com/
0.9.9
1870 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Tested on Windows 7
Dr.Web CureIt!
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Sandbox environment useful for halting processes and scanning MBR.
Unable to detect some of the modern rootkits.
6.00.4
115 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
All Windows Platforms

 
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anti-rootkit, rootkit scanner, rootkit remover, free rootkit scanner, free rootkit remover, freeware, rootkit eliminator, rootkit detection

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Comments

by Anonymous on 19. May 2008 - 2:53  (761)

It mentioned here that "two of the simplest to use are also amongst the most effective. The first is called Panda Anti Rootkit.....". What's the second one?The last four freewares are for experts. So inexperienced users like me are really left with no other choice than panda, which would not be enough given that no single anti-rootkit can totally protect us from these type of malwares.
For me, being the paranoid-type, I do a weekly scan with my antivirus, antispyware, and four rootkit scanners (panda anti rootkit, avg anti rootkit, rootkit scanner of bitdefender free, and rootkit scanner of threatfire). I don't know if that's good enough though. Surely, I'll wait for the next update of this good anti rootkit review.

by Anonymous on 24. May 2008 - 3:52  (1048)

I think the author means F-Secure BlackLight: ftp://ftp.f-secure.com/anti-virus/tools/fsbl.exe

Read the following paragraph and we know what he implied: "If you are an experienced user, you should check out Sysinternals RootkitRevealer. It uses a totally different technique than Panda Anti Rootkit and BlackLight, ..."

I use all three and also McAfee Rootkit Detective: http://download.nai.com/products/mcafee-avert/McafeeRootkitDetective.zip

by pconrad on 2. June 2008 - 9:20  (1495)
by JonathanT on 8. June 2008 - 7:10  (1748)

I think Trend Micro Rootkit Buster should be an option, because according to av test, the four av s best at detecting rootkits are Symantec, Trend Micro, Panda and F-secure.

by Anonymous on 9. June 2008 - 4:31  (1789)

I think blacklight is a shareware not a freeware. Sophos anti-rootkit works great too. How about a review for this freeware here?

by Anonymous on 11. June 2008 - 12:01  (1936)
by Anonymous on 11. June 2008 - 12:05  (1938)

Installing Gmer and Rootkit Revealer in my Vista PC produced BSOD...

by Anonymous on 12. June 2008 - 18:12  (1987)

Detection is one thing, removal another...e.g. the Antivir rootkit rate detection is excellent, removall is very bad... this section should pick the best of both worlds. Rootkit tests by Av-test, Virusbtn, Anti-malware.com are contradictory... I think these tests are not as thorough as they can be.

by Anonymous on 12. June 2008 - 21:55  (1995)

«Rootkit removal proved even more problematic. Once
again the specialized tools performed the best on average,
with a disinfection score of a little below 66% of the
samples. However, the security suites were not able to
clean more than 50% of the infections
and the online
scanners were almost useless
, with a disinfection rate of
only around 32%.
We also saw a good number of crashes and related
problems in this section, but sometimes the rootkit was
gone after a bluescreen and one or two reboots. Tools like
Avira RootKit Detection sometimes removed the Windows
explorer.exe file, so the system could not be started after
a ‘successful’ disinfection run. McAfee Rootkit Detective
renamed the original Internet Explorer iexplore.exe fi le
in two cases. Sporadically, AVG Anti-Rootkit Free also
tried to remove some system fi les, leaving the system in
an unbootable state.

Source:
[Virus Bulletin 04/2008] Anti-Stealth Fighters: Testing for Rootkit Detection and Removal (75 KB PDF) - http://www.av-test.org/down/papers/2008-04_vb_rootkits.pdf

by JonathanT on 13. June 2008 - 10:14  (2015)

Hi

The key point is: many rootkits are very hard to get rid of once installed on your pc.

But you always have to remember it has to get in your computer first - there is a source. So if you always sandbox your browsing, malware has very little chance of getting into your real computer.

"Prevention is better than cure".

by Anonymous on 17. June 2008 - 2:14  (2219)

Hi
Does antivir includes rootkit scan ? I am not sure, if anyone knows...

by JonathanT on 17. June 2008 - 7:22  (2230)

Hi

Yes, it has a built in anti-rootkit component.

by George on 18. June 2008 - 17:16  (2340)

There is another free rootkit scanner by Sophos (http://www.sophos.com/products/free-tools/sophos-anti-rootkit.html). However, both, Sophos and Panda do not support Windows Vista. That might be worth mentioning.
Regards,
George

by Anonymous on 30. June 2008 - 13:40  (3349)

The link for www.techsupportalert.com/rootkits.htm doesn't work. I found a pretty good link on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rootkit that does a very good job in describing the threat and the difficulties in removing them. There are also some other free products mentioned.

by jeffrey (not verified) on 5. July 2008 - 21:51  (3610)
by Anonymous on 9. July 2008 - 13:09  (3900)

Hi guys Great site ! I came here looking for pointers But it all seems so confusing Back and forth This and that and even religious or political at times ! ! hehe Please keep it simple guys ! !

by JonathanT on 9. July 2008 - 13:59  (3902)

Hi

Well if you want to keep it simple you can just read the article and not the comments.

But good discussion is what generates more ideas and people can learn more too.

by Anonymous on 10. July 2008 - 12:47  (3977)

There's quite a few reasons to avoid Panda. One of them is the spam issue.

"Some users have complained of regularly receiving unsolicited e-mail from Panda and have said that efforts to unsubscribe from the mailings or contact the company have been unsuccessful" ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panda_Security

by JonathanT on 10. July 2008 - 13:23  (3978)

Hi

Well if it's true it is unacceptable.

But Panda Anti-rootkit does not require giving out any information such as e-mails.

by peter on 10. July 2008 - 13:28  (3980)

"This site reserves the right to remove any inappropriate comments without notice."

by Anonymous on 10. July 2008 - 13:41  (3982)

If it is true it's relevant and it shouldn't be removed.

by Anonymous on 23. July 2008 - 20:13  (4834)

hi guys what the best root-kite scan for vista beside GMER cause. i have a friend whole just know how to press a button. and he got vista. and i don't what him getting infected . any help in the matter will be nice thanks . some one also told me that Grisoft is come out with it own free version of a root-kite scanner . call anti -root. i don't know if it true or how well it works . thanks .

by jeffrey (not verified) on 25. July 2008 - 8:02  (4905)

Hi,

Many of the suggested root-kit tools are not yet developed for Vista. You might want to suggest Avira for your friend which has a decent root-kit detector/remover. The Grisoft stand alone root-kit tool is no longer free and is now a suite: http://free.avg.com/ww.download-avg-anti-spyware-and-anti-rootkit

Thanks for your question, and I hope this helps.

by Anonymous on 9. August 2008 - 8:03  (5838)

Threatfire also has a rootkit scanner and its free. I am not sure how effective it is at detection and removal. Threatfire also has a realtime behavior monitor that can prevent rootkits, viruses, trojan, spyware, etc.

Panda 1.08 freezes everytime I try to use it on my computer. On the Panda forums, they seemd to be ignoring this problem which many have encountered.

by Anonymous on 10. August 2008 - 4:18  (5880)

Yep, Panda freezes on my computer also. While scanning it, freezes at when its progress has reached 20% while scanning the windows registry. Panda has never been able to complete a scan on any of the 5 computers I have tried it on...freezing on every single one. All were Windows XP (some XP home and some XP professional, and each had a different hardware configuration). Seems like an unstable program to me. Not sure how it can be recommended if it does not work for so many users.

by Anonymous on 10. August 2008 - 23:55  (5910)

Panda froze on me too, even though I was using it on a supported system (i.e. XP service pack 2, 32 bit). Does anybody know why it freezes? Is there a solution ot this?

by Anonymous on 11. August 2008 - 17:36  (5928)

I use several of these anti-rootkits. Panda has not been any problem on either of my Windows XP2 Media Center edition PC's. I wonder if it's a Windows update thing, or another security tool interfering? Bad download? Or Panda has changed the download somehow?

by Anonymous on 13. August 2008 - 16:12  (6047)

Hey! IceSword is dead, I just get 404 errors on every version i try to download off that link!

by jeffrey (not verified) on 15. August 2008 - 23:14  (6173)

The server could have been down. It's working fine now.

Thanks

by Anonymous on 19. August 2008 - 15:13  (6296)

Hello all, I'm getting the following error message when I scan with F-Secure's BlackLight:
Scan partially completed (Error 8001 2).

The only forum I've found which addresses this -F-Secure's site was no help- suggests editing Registry Rules. I don't see why, and I'm not confident about, having to alter core system elements to accommodate third party software.
I think Blacklight "may" be having issues with my other security software: Avast! Home Edition AV v4.8; Comodo firewall v3.0.25 and/or Webroot Spy Sweeper v5.8.1 (all of which scan for rootkits, I believe).
XP Pro (SP3).
Any ideas?

P.S. I also use Panda anti-rootkit 1.08 which has always worked fine for me.... as far as I can tell. I suppose just because it never flags anything, it doesn't mean there's nothing there.
P.P.S. I don't remember having ever received any unsolicited emails from Panda.

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