Cyber-attacks are a growing menace that we have to deal with every time, especially with the increased internet use. A 2022 report on the global prevalence of cyber-attacks painted a grim picture of just how devastating these attacks can be on various industries.

Manufacturing had the highest share of cyber-attacks globally among all the leading industries. But what do cyber-attacks constitute, and why should we all take extra caution when interacting with our devices? 

Attackers are becoming increasingly innovative in launching these attacks; one such way is by using scripts to deploy malware. In this article, we’ll look into script-based malware attacks, their impact, and how to protect your device. Read on to learn more!

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What is a script-based malware attack?

A malware attack happens when criminals install malicious software on your device without consent and use it to steal crucial information or cripple the device. Scripts are currently one of the most common strategies for attackers to execute malware attacks on your device.

malware detection

Script-based malware attacks stand out because they’re initiated by hackers using scripts that appear harmless. The attack relies on malicious code to deploy malware and could be typically executed as file-less.

Some of the malicious code that attackers use to deploy malware through scripting include

  1. Simple scripts, e.g., system command sequences
  2. Advanced scripts, e.g., programming languages used for system configuration
  3. Automation scripts, e.g., automated service or system requests

Attackers usually rely on programming languages like JavaScript and Python to execute these malware scripts. The attacks are harder to identify due to their file-less identity (they run on the system’s memory), which evades email or web app security detection systems. To enhance your system’s security, fixing Antimalware Service Executable high CPU usage and addressing potential vulnerabilities is crucial.

How script-based malware attacks work 

You must rely on a malicious script to start a script-based malware attack. These scripts are usually fragments of a modified code that threat actors use for selfish gain. They are hidden in legitimate websites or even other third-party scripts.

malware infection

Next, an attacker must deliver the script to the device as a download from a web application or via email. They do this hoping the user will be prompted to enable and run a macro, ensuring the malicious script is executed on the device. 

The harm a script-based malware attack causes will highly hinge on the sophistication of the malware coding, including understanding what Trustedinstaller.exe is. For example, a script may collect sensitive information by recording keystrokes, infect other parts of the system, or even lock users out of their systems.

How a script-based malware attack reaches your device

The more technology advances, the more hackers become unstoppable. But for script-based malware attacks, things aren’t as different from other malware attacks.

They’ll try to sneak the scripts into your device by attaching them to things you easily interact with. This could be documents or even a music file. Here are some of the most common avenues for these attacks:

malware issue

  1. Phishing emails: An attacker will disguise themselves with a legitimate email bearing an attachment or a document. Once you click on it, the script is executed on your device.
  2. Downloads: Downloading items online from just any site is often a recipe for bad things to come. Attackers know this naivety from most users and hide scripts in things we might download, such as software or songs.
  3. Web Traps: Common web tools such as HTA or JavaScript are conduits that attackers use to run malware scripts. An attacker may tamper with a website and lay a trap for its usual visitors. When you unknowingly visit the site, the malware script will start working.

Common scripts deployed in script-based malware attacks

For a script-based malware attack to occur, it must rely on a script file. These include JavaScript, PowerShell, HTML (HTA), VBScript, and many more. Here is a look into the Script file and what it does:

JavaScript

Attackers rely on JavaScript to unleash these web-based attacks merely because it’s more universal. JavaScript is a scripting language ingrained in web pages and applications that allows you to implement complex features.

javascript

However, it’s a double-edged sword that becomes a potent weapon in the wrong hands. Attackers often exploit it to manipulate and augment PDF files, embedding elements like objects and web page links

The PDF-based attacks often exploit vulnerabilities in reader software or in-browser readers. This facilitates easy execution of malicious JavaScript code and, eventually, a malware attack on the target device.

PowerShell

PowerShell is a versatile framework designed for configuration management and task automation. Administrators and security professionals use command-line shells and scripting languages to automate tasks and manage systems. 

PowerShell is indispensable when it comes to streamlining tasks. However, it’s an attractive tool for malicious entities seeking to exploit system weaknesses. Attackers can easily rely on it to launch script-based malware attacks on compromised device systems.

HTML Application (HTA)

An HTML Application (HTA) is a script file tailored to Microsoft Windows systems. It’s crafted and designed to operate within the Internet Explorer browser—script-based malware attacks via HTML work by exploiting the Windows dynamics.

Attackers often rely on HTML Smuggling to “smuggle” malicious scripts within an HTML attachment or web page. When you open the HTML in your web browser, it’ll decode the malicious script and assemble the payload on the device.

VBScript

VBScript (Visual Basic Scripting) Edition shares lineage with VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). While VBA caters to comprehensive application development, VBScript simplifies tasks for system administrators. 

It operates similarly to PowerShell, and attackers find it a great avenue for script-based attacks. Microsoft’s backing of script encoding, especially through VBE files, further amplifies its allure as a tool for malicious exploits.

Common signs you have a malicious script running on your system

Script-based malware attacks are designed to occur stealthily, making them difficult to spot. They have ways of slipping past regular malware detection tools to work secretly in the corners of your device. 

However, there are a few telltale signs you can rely on to detect the presence of this malware in your device. Let’s take a look at each:

System slowdown

  • This is usually one of the first signs of a compromised system.
  • Any moment you notice your device suddenly becoming sluggish or freezing, it could indicate that a malicious script is operating discreetly in the background.

Frequent pop-ups

  • Too many pop-ups and ads point to a potentially infected device.
  • Some of the frequent pop-ups you witness every time on your device may be the work of a malicious script-based adware infection.

Unusual network activity

  • A malicious script on your device will require the resources to communicate with external services.
  • This may lead to increased data usage or slower internet speeds when visiting a website.

Unwanted programs

  • Any unwanted program or application on your device is a big red flag, usually indicating someone else is snooping around.
  • If you come across apps or software you didn’t install, they could be the work of an attacker planning to execute their malicious acts.

How to protect your device from script-based malware attacks

You need a proactive approach to detect, remove, and protect your device from script-based malware attacks. Below are a few strategies you can implement:

Use antivirus software

  • A robust antivirus protection is usually a recommended first line of defense against script-based threats.
  • Opt for an antivirus that detects, blocks, and removes malicious scripts. Regularly scan your device to check for malware and other suspicious elements. 

Be vigilant

  • Real-time protection of your device serves as an immediate barricade against potential script-based malware attacks.
  • For example, you should learn to remove spyware from iPhone, as these malicious scripts may bring some about.
  • Also, ensure your antivirus has real-time protection for an ongoing shield against evolving threats.

Use email safeguards

  • Most script-based malware attacks happen through malicious emails. That’s why you should safeguard your email with security features such as spam filters.
  • Also, don’t open emails from unfamiliar sources; exercise caution with attachments and links. 

Update your software

  • Keep all your device software up-to-date. Updates are crucial reinforcements, equipping your system with the latest safeguards against emerging script-based malware threats.
  • Allow your antivirus to automate updates, and extend this practice to other software. 

The impact of script-based malware attacks

Malware attacks come with dire consequences if not well thwarted. Some of the risks you face when faced with these attacks include:

  • Data loss and theft: The attackers will use scripts to extract your vital data and use it for malicious purposes such as identity theft or fraud.
  • Damage to the system: Attackers can send malicious scripts your way to delete crucial system files and cripple your device. You won’t be able to use your device as before.
  • Botnet recruitment: Some script files are carefully crafted and executed to transform your device system into a botnet. The hacker takes total control of the system and can use it to launch more attacks. 

Script-based malware can also infect mobile devices running on both iOS and Android. They’ll infect your iPhone or the Android phone you’re using the same way they attack computers—via phishing emails, apps, or infected websites.

Conclusion

Script-based malware attacks are a real threat, posing significant dangers impacting individual users and organizations. Many types of malware, such as ransomware, make use of scripts. 

You can easily avoid further damage to your device by taking extra caution and practicing good digital hygiene habits, especially when encountering messages like “Operation Did Not Complete Successfully Because The File Contains A Virus.” Remember—script-based attacks require user interaction unless deployed through an exploit for them to run.

See Also: Fix: Windows Defender Has Been Turned Off By Group Policy

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