What is a 'Backdoor'

A backdoor is a way in which a third party can access software or a computer system without authentication in order to gain access and/or monitor that system. Also called a trap door, the term can also be applied to the way in which hackers or government agencies gain illicit access to computer systems. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Backdoor'

Backdoors can be a threat to user security and privacy and are difficult to unmask because they are designed to elude detection. They also offer a variety of ways to access a user’s system. Firewalls, monitoring networks for suspicious activity, and preventing open source programs from accessing a network can help protect against backdoor intrusion.

Not all backdoors are illicit. Backdoors can be set up by network administrators as a way to gain access to a system in order to monitor and administer it remotely. These portals can be protected with a username and password that can't be changed. But some of these backdoors, which are typically built into the system, can make them susceptible to hacking. In these cases, they may install malware or other kinds of software or programs to alter your files or steal your data. 

Android's Pre-Installed Backdoors

In November 2016, security analysts discovered that more than 100,000 Android phones contained a pre-installed backdoor that sent users’ locations, text messages, call logs and contact lists to recipients in China for an unknown purpose, without the phone users’ knowledge. Users would not have been able to detect the transmissions even if they had known about them because of how backdoors work. Backdoors can also be used by the government and federal agencies that want to monitor cellphone behavior, including tracking internet use and monitoring conversations.

Governments Agencies Using Backdoors

In the 1990s, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) publicly campaigned to insert a backdoor in all encrypted communications online to allow it to eavesdrop. One of the arguments against allowing the NSA to do this is that backdoors create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by more than just the entity that installed the backdoor. Enemies of the United States could exploit the same backdoors that the NSA wanted to use. The agency ended up using other methods, such as hacking and weakening encryption standards, to accomplish its goals. The NSA also worked with providers such as Microsoft to gain pre-encrypted access to popular consumer services like email, online storage and Internet phone calls and chats.

Backdoor access was at the heart of a fight between the FBI and Apple after the 2015 shootings in San Bernardino. Opponents argued that allowing such access would not be an isolated incident but would set a new precedent that would reverse much of the progress made in internet security and allow governments to have backdoor access to other internet and computer-based systems ranging from cars to thermostats. The precedent could also have allowed other law enforcement agencies, from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to local police departments, to gain access to people’s phones. The case was withdrawn by the federal government after the FBI announced it was able to unlock one of the shooter's iPhones

RELATED TERMS
  1. Backdoor Roth IRA

    A backdoor Roth IRA allows taxpayers to place retirement savings ...
  2. Intrusion Detection System (IDS)

    An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is a computer program that ...
  3. Malware

    Malware is a software designed to allow an outside party access ...
  4. Data Breach

    A data breach is an unauthorized access and retrieval of sensitive ...
  5. Direct Deposit

    Direct deposit is the deposit of electronic funds directly into ...
  6. Smartphone

    Smartphones are handheld devices that enable people to make phone ...
Related Articles
  1. Retirement

    A Tax Loophole You May Not Want to Fall Into

    HNW individuals can make contributions to Roth and traditional IRAs. But are there consequences?
  2. Retirement

    The Backdoor Way to Qualify for a Roth IRA

    Meet with your tax advisor to find out what a backdoor Roth IRA is. Basically, it's a tax loophole that could help you prepare for retirement.
  3. Retirement

    How to Invest in a Roth IRA Even With a High Salary

    Backdoor conversions offer a way to fund a Roth IRA despite a high income.
  4. Investing

    Can a Backdoor Roth IRA Save You Money in Taxes?

    Here's how high earners can take advantage of a Roth IRA and why all earners should have a Roth IRA.
  5. Personal Finance

    Financial Planning for Medical Professionals

    Medical students, residents, and physicians need to make time in their busy schedules to take care of their financial health.
  6. Insights

    Apple Encryption Case: FBI Cracks Shooter's iPhone (AAPL)

    The Department of Justice has brought an abrupt end to the encryption fight it had been waging with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) over an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook. In a two-page filing Monday, ...
  7. Tech

    What You Don’t Know About Cybersecurity Can Hurt You

    Cybersecurity incidents are on the rise—advisors that fail to address underlying issues could face a variety of regulatory actions. Here's what to know.
  8. Investing

    Microsoft, IBM May Get New Scrutiny From China

    The US tech firms could be subject to a new Chinese security review that kicks off next month.
  9. Tech

    Analyst Assures Apple Shares Will Remain Unscathed

    Apple refuses to create backdoor iPhone technology but a top Wall Street analyst does not believe this will negatively impact share prices.
  10. Tech

    Is It Safe to Send Money Through Facebook?

    Learn how Facebook employs strong measures to keep your information safe when sending money, but understand the rare threats that still exist.
Hot Definitions
  1. Economies of Scale

    Economies of scale refer to reduced costs per unit that arise from increased total output of a product. For example, a larger ...
  2. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet its short-term obligations with its most liquid assets.
  3. Leverage

    Leverage results from using borrowed capital as a source of funding when investing to expand the firm's asset base and generate ...
  4. Financial Risk

    Financial risk is the possibility that shareholders will lose money when investing in a company if its cash flow fails to ...
  5. Enterprise Value (EV)

    Enterprise Value (EV) is a measure of a company's total value, often used as a more comprehensive alternative to equity market ...
  6. Relative Strength Index - RSI

    Relative Strength Indicator (RSI) is a technical momentum indicator that compares the magnitude of recent gains to recent ...
Trading Center