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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.

  Read this article in Spanish (Español)

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
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

 
Editor

This software category is in need of an editor. If you would like to give something back to the freeware community by taking it over, check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here

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

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Comments

by RonieD (not verified) on 13. February 2011 - 9:07  (66330)

I just downloaded the Sophos Anti-Rootkit tool and MS Security Essential identified it as a Trojan? Anyone else experience this? I'm guessing it's a false positive but I'm a little reluctant to install it. Thanks

by KARaa (not verified) on 5. July 2011 - 11:19  (74782)

Defining competitive products as malware is an old and well-known strategy.

by chris_79 on 4. February 2011 - 0:02  (65806)

Hi guys,sory i haven't updated the rootkit articles recently,i did do some testing and i saw no real reason to change anything in the rootkit removal software reviews above.

There are a few other software's i could add,but nothing that is any better than the software allready in this review.I will continue testing and should i come accross a piece of software that impresses me,i will update this review.

In the meantime if anyone would like any anti rootkit software tested out,or feels there is a specific tool would should be in the list above please don`t hesitate to let me know.

Regards.

Chris.

by Elvin James (not verified) on 4. February 2011 - 5:38  (65819)

Could you consider testing both Helios Lite Rootkit Remover and Tizer Rootkit Remover? Thanks

by MidnightCowboy on 4. February 2011 - 6:02  (65821)

Unless these guys have moved to somewhere I can't find, Helios is way out of date, only working on Windows XP to SP2. This makes it far too restricted to be of any use here. In fact at this age it's unlikely to be of any use at all. If however someone has a link to an updated version please share.

by Bopperman (not verified) on 4. February 2011 - 21:58  (65856)

I tried too MC and the most recent post I found re Helios was from 2007. This does leave Tizer...Can it be reviewed?

by MidnightCowboy on 5. February 2011 - 6:01  (65870)

This will be up to the editor now. If he thinks the program has merit and value then I'm sure he'll look at it. Too much choice though can often lead to confusion which is why we don't just list strings of programs in each category.

In all honesty, it's much easier to avoid getting a rootkit infection than it is to hunt for one and remove it afterwards :)

by Faust (not verified) on 3. December 2010 - 10:25  (61969)

The Blacklight link has changed to: http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA-Labs/security-threats/tools/blacklight/

by chris_79 on 3. December 2010 - 11:45  (61972)

Thanks for the heads up :)

by Bubba (not verified) on 11. November 2010 - 1:55  (61011)

TDSSKiller a free tool from Kaspersky is probably the best and easiest out now for dealing with TDL3 & 4 rootkits.

by WakeUp! (not verified) on 3. December 2010 - 11:22  (61970)

Norman TDSS Cleaner
http://www.norman.com/security_center/virus_description_archive/77200

by chris_79 on 3. December 2010 - 11:46  (61973)

Im in the process of testing anti rootkit software i`ll make sure this is included in those tests,thank you

by WakeUp! (not verified) on 3. December 2010 - 11:27  (61971)

For XP:

Panda Anti-Rootkit
http://research.pandasecurity.com/blogs/images/AntiRootkit.zip

by chris_79 on 3. December 2010 - 11:47  (61974)

Im currently testing this software along with others,thank for your infomation though.

by Av_Crazy on 17. November 2010 - 1:42  (61301)

Agree with Bubba

by Chris in france (not verified) on 14. November 2010 - 11:28  (61179)

Just got rid of MEM:rootkit.win64.fa with Kaspersky TDSSKiller - it found it and cured it - Sophos was still chugging away but didn't find it

by chris_79 on 15. November 2010 - 19:00  (61250)

Im pretty sure this tool is going to be in my selection very soon,not only is it very effective,it`s also a true lauch and click programme.
Very safe in the hands of users at all levels.

Thank you both for your info.

Chris.

by hurzx (not verified) on 18. November 2010 - 12:34  (61348)

I'm looking for a Rookit scanner/remover and was considering to use TDSSkiller.
Fortunally, before going further I did some research with Google. I can only warn anybody to be very cautious before proceeding and at least to do a complete backup of its PC before daring to use this tool.

For your information, I recommend you to read the post below. It's rather long (5pages) but it's frightening. I mean, I would still prefer to have an infection on my computer rather than have everything lost and the PC unusable...

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/topic284553.html

Until it has be explained what happened to this guy and that we have some reassurance that TDSS is not damaging a PC I will no take the risk of using it.

by chris_79 on 18. November 2010 - 18:43  (61362)

TDS killer is fine,i agree everyone should have a system image regardless of the sittuation.

But sometimes with rootkits as with any other computer infection the damage is allready done by the time you remove it,that said,yes alot of full av`s will do their upmost to repair said damage,but even then it`s not 100% succesfull.

TDS is a very effective software,i will test it to it`s limits within the next week,if there are any negatives i will post them and also notify kaspersky.

Thank you for your feed back and for helping others.

Chris.

by chris_79 on 12. November 2010 - 7:48  (61072)

I agree it`s a great tool,im currently rounding up both rootkits and removers and i plan on doing some serious testing very soon.

Depending on the outcome i can see there being a few changes to this review in the not to distant future.

Thank you for your input.

Chris.

by chris_79 on 3. November 2010 - 0:59  (60691)

Hello all,

Im the new catergoty editor,i know some of the comments in this catergory are fairly old,but i wanted to introduce myself to you all.

If anyone would like me to review any anti rootkit software,or has any suggestions of changes they would like to see in this catergory please dont hesitate to contact me and i`ll take a look into it.

Thanks for reading.

Chris_79

by Spruce (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 17:52  (56076)

PrevX identifies a file in Windows/system32 called fyler1-q9zj8.exe as a threat, which most of the categories of free antimalware programs discussed throughout this site do not.

I've read about this being a false-positive elsewhere on the internet, but how can I make sure it is?

Please suggest me a way.

Thanks in advance,
-Spruce.

by Anupam on 15. August 2010 - 18:21  (56080)

You can upload the file to www.virustotal.com. It will scan the file with 41 antivirus engines, and give you result.

by Spruce (not verified) on 16. August 2010 - 6:45  (56102)

The file indeed was a false positive (3/42 scanners reported it as infected, but it was a heuristic analysis)

Thanks a lot for the reference; it helped me a lot.

by Anupam on 16. August 2010 - 10:48  (56112)

Glad it helped you :).

by mumthaz (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 10:02  (56061)

tel me how to remove rootkit

by Spruce (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 18:05  (56079)

Did you try any anti-rootkit program? Which one?

by ecorchran (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 1:22  (56044)

Let a friend use my laptop while I was at the beach and it came back with an extremely nasty set of rootkits and other infections that even Sophos could not clear. I made progress but was not able to fix everything. Ended up using [edit: link to commercial services removed] to fix it. I noticed that they used GMER, HiJackThis, and some other tool I hadn't seen before to clear the infection.

by Tomas (not verified) on 11. August 2010 - 22:18  (55815)

I have two questions regarding Prevx...The scanner in SafeOnline detects Tizer Rootkir Razor as an infection while the Prevx module in Hitman Pro does not.I believe it is a false positive but why the discrepancy? Second how do I configure Safeonline to ignore the false positive of Tizer? It does give the option of transferring the file/infection to another folder but how do I know which one? Help! Thank you.

by Telly (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 19:52  (56086)

This is an interesting question. Can anyone try to answer?