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. 


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 shooters' iPhones

  1. Cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity refers to the measures taken to keep electronic ...
  2. eCash

    eCash is an internet-based system that facilitates the transfer ...
  3. Software As A Service - SaaS

    A cloud-computing approach to providing users with access to ...
  4. Data Breach

    A data breach is an unauthorized access and retrieval of sensitive ...
  5. Cloud Computing

    Cloud computing is a model for delivering information technology ...
  6. White Hat

    A white hat is an ethical practice used to improve computer and ...
Related Articles
  1. Retirement

    Too Rich for a Roth? Do This

    A backdoor Roth IRA could allow high-income earners to grow their retirement wealth.
  2. Retirement

    IRA Contributions for High Net Worth Individuals

    Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it's important for high net worth individuals to not put all of their income into tax-deferred accounts.
  3. Retirement

    4 Things to Know About Backdoor Roth IRA Conversions

    Roth IRA conversions aren't for everyone, but they can be useful for those who earn too much to contribute directly to a Roth IRA.
  4. Investing

    Apple, FBI Escalate Face-Off In Full Public View (AAPL)

    Monday morning, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook fired back again in the company's standoff with U.S. officials.
  5. Investing

    UK Wants WhatsApp Accessible to Intel Services

    Facebook is facing calls by lawmakers to make its messaging app accessible to govt. agencies.
  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

    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.
  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. Insights

    Apple Plans Data Center in China to Comply With New Law

    Apple is building its first ever data center in China with a local cloud company as it aims to comply with the new cybersecurity rule.
  10. Tech

    Is Making Your Home ‘Smart’ A Dumb Idea?

    Remote-controlled devices and home systems could allow hackers to penetrate your sensitive data, not to mention your premises.
Trading Center