How Do Hackers Execute Malware Attacks With a Script?

Updated on: July 17, 2024
Fact Checked by Sam Boyd
Kamso Oguejiofor-Abugu Kamso Oguejiofor-Abugu
Updated on: July 17, 2024 Writer

Short on time? Here’s how to protect your devices from script-based malware attacks:

  • 1. Install a trustworthy and effective antivirus. For comprehensive protection against script-based malware attacks, I recommend Norton. Its anti-malware engine uses a malware directory, advanced heuristics, and machine learning to identify all types of threats including script-based malware.
  • 2. Run a full system scan. Open the antivirus and choose the most comprehensive scan available. This will search every corner of your device for any signs of malicious scripts.
  • 3. Keep your antivirus software updated. Regular updates ensure that your antivirus software has the latest information about new threats and can effectively protect your devices from them. Most antivirus software, including Norton, will automatically update when connected to the internet.

Cyber threats are a common and potentially devastating problem these days. Among the many types of threats out there, script-based malware attacks stand out. These attacks are initiated by hackers using seemingly harmless scripts to deploy malware, and they pose significant risks to both individuals and organizations.

Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent these cyber intrusions — you can fortify your devices with a reliable antivirus. With the right antivirus, you can detect, remove, and prevent script-based malware attacks, ensuring that your devices and sensitive information stay protected.

To help you find the right antivirus, I’ve tested and evaluated tons of them, and I discovered the 3 antivirus products that work best against script-based malware attacks. Norton emerged as my top choice — with its perfect malware detection and real-time protection, you can confidently safeguard your devices and data from malware attacks that use scripts.


How Can Hackers Use Scripts to Deploy Malware Attacks?

Scripting is a way of automating specific tasks on a system. These tasks are usually harmless, such as automatically renaming multiple files or fetching web content. Hackers, on the other hand, use scripts for malicious purposes — including the deployment of malware attacks.

To do this, hackers write scripts that download or install malware when the script is run. They can also design these scripts to carry out various activities, such as recording keystrokes, stealing personal data, or locking users out of their systems. These scripts are typically written in common programming languages like JavaScript, Python, or PowerShell.

A good real-world example of script-based malware is the “I Love You” virus. It was a script hidden in an email attachment that, when opened, replicated itself and sent the same email to every contact in the recipient’s address book. The virus caused an estimated $8.7 billion in damages worldwide.

More recently, the hacker group Vice Society has used malicious scripts to greater effect. Though their attacks haven’t infected as many computers as the “I Love You” virus, they’re harder to detect and actively steal victims’ information. Vice Society uses automated scripts that specifically target sensitive data, which they then put up for ransom. They have victims all over the world and their attacks are ongoing.

These instances illustrate the destructive nature of script-based malware attacks, and therefore the need for effective protective measures.

How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

Keeping your devices secure from script-based malware attacks requires proactive steps towards detection, removal, and protection. Here’s how you can guard against malicious scripts:

Step 1: Install Antivirus Software

Choose an antivirus that can detect, block, and remove malicious scripts. Norton, for example, is a great choice (its malware scanner detected 100% of the malware I threw at it). Once you’ve chosen your antivirus, follow the instructions to download and install it on your device.
How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

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Step 2: Run a Full System Scan

Run a full scan of your entire system to identify and remove any script-based malware. Click on the Full Scan option to do this (all my recommended antiviruses offer full system scan options).
How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

Step 3: Remove the Malware From Your Device

Once the scan is complete, you’ll get a list of everything suspicious that was found on your device. Your antivirus will have marked all of these items and will then give you the option to remove or quarantine all infected and malicious files.

I recommend that you remove everything that gets flagged. If you’re worried about false positives or losing data, you can go over the list and uncheck anything you want to keep if you’re absolutely sure it’s safe. But, in my experience, it’s best to trust the antivirus and get rid of everything.
How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

Step 4: Restart Your Device and Run Another Full Scan

It’s important to do a full restart after you’ve removed the malware. Even then, you still can’t be sure your device is perfectly clean. Some scripts can be particularly tricky and replicate as your device boots up. To be sure this hasn’t happened, run a second scan. If the antivirus doesn’t find anything, your device should be free from malicious scripts and other types of malware.
How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

Step 5: Enable Real-Time Protection

One of the key features of strong antivirus software is real-time protection. This feature continuously monitors your system, offering immediate protection against any malicious scripts that may try to infiltrate your device. In the settings of your antivirus software, ensure that real-time protection is turned on.
How to Detect, Remove & Protect Against Malicious Scripts (Step-By-Step Guide)

Step 6: Enable Email Protection

Many script-based attacks originate from malicious emails, so ensure your email client has security features enabled. Avoid opening emails from unfamiliar sources and never download attachments or click on links within these emails. Some antiviruses offer specific protection against email-based threats. For instance, Norton provides a spam filter feature that automatically filters out spam emails. It also allows you to create exclusion lists for emails you trust while blocking malicious or suspicious emails.

Step 7: Secure Backups Regularly

Consider backing up your most important files to an external hard drive or a cloud storage service. If you’re worried about nasty scripts, you should do this regularly. If you get infected by script-based malware in the future, having a backup allows you to restore your system without losing valuable data.

A premium antivirus with real-time protection should keep you secure, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Step 8: Monitor System Processes

Get familiar with the normal processes running on your device. If you notice a process that seems suspicious, look it up online to determine whether it’s potentially malicious. Most operating systems have built-in utilities that allow you to view active processes. On Windows, the task manager is accessed by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc simultaneously.

Step 9: Update Your Software

Lastly, ensure all of your software is always up-to-date. Updates typically include the latest defenses against new threats, including evolving script-based malware. Allow your antivirus to automatically update. Other programs also need to be regularly updated to ensure they aren’t compromised by the newest vulnerabilities. Developers fix these issues when they find them, but if you don’t update your software you won’t be protected. Many antiviruses also contain vulnerability scanners that can look for and automatically update outdated software for you.

Best Antiviruses for Protecting Against Script-Based Malware in 2024

Quick summary of the best antiviruses for protecting against malicious scripts:

  • 🥇 1. Norton — Best antivirus program to remove script-based malware and other virus threats in 2024.
  • 🥈 2. Bitdefender — Lightweight antivirus for defeating malicious scripts (comes with ID theft protection).
  • 🥉 3. TotalAV — Good optimization tools to clean your computer after removing scripts.

Can Free Antivirus Software Protect Against Malicious Scripts?

Free antivirus software can provide a basic level of protection against various types of malware, including malicious scripts. These programs can be beneficial if you’re on a tight budget or you’re only looking for minimal protection.

Some free antivirus options offer a reasonable degree of security, including real-time protection, malware detection, and phishing protection. So they can certainly help mitigate the risks posed by malicious scripts.

However, free antivirus software often falls short when compared to paid alternatives. For starters, it usually comes with a limited set of features and doesn’t include advanced protection mechanisms like ransomware shields, email protection, secure banking, or virtual private networks (VPNs). This can leave your device vulnerable to more sophisticated attacks. What’s more, some free antiviruses aren’t regularly updated, meaning they won’t provide protection against the latest kinds of threats.

In conclusion, free antivirus software can provide a basic defense, but for comprehensive protection against script-based malware attacks, a premium antivirus solution is strongly recommended.

Common Signs You Have a Malicious Script Running On Your System

Detecting a malicious script on your system can be challenging as these scripts are often designed to operate stealthily. However, there are several telltale signs that might indicate the presence of script-based malware:

  • Unexpected system slowdown. If your computer suddenly becomes sluggish or frequently freezes, it could be a sign that a script is running in the background, using up system resources.
  • Frequent pop-ups. Excessive pop-up ads, especially those that seem irrelevant or sketchy, can indicate a script-based adware infection.
  • Changed browser settings. If your homepage or search engine changes without your consent, or you notice unexpected toolbars, a script may have altered your browser settings.
  • Unusual network activity. Increased data usage or slower internet speeds could mean a script is using your network to communicate with an external server.
  • Unwanted programs. If applications or software you didn’t install appear on your system, they could have been installed by a malicious script.
  • Disabled security software. If your antivirus software or firewall gets disabled mysteriously, a script might be trying to make your system vulnerable to further attacks.

How Do Malicious Scripts Get Onto Your System?

Malicious scripts can infiltrate your system through various methods, often exploiting your daily digital activities. Here are some of the common ways they can sneak into your system:

  • Phishing emails. Cybercriminals often send deceptive emails containing links or attachments infected with malicious scripts. Once clicked or opened, these scripts can install malware onto your system.
  • Infected websites. Some websites are designed or compromised to distribute malware. Simply visiting such a website or clicking on a disguised link within the site can trigger a script to download and execute on your system.
  • Software vulnerabilities. Outdated software can serve as an entry point for malicious scripts. Hackers often exploit known vulnerabilities in such software to deliver their malicious payloads.
  • Downloaded files. Files downloaded from untrusted sources can contain hidden scripts. Opening these files can execute the script and infect your system.
  • Malvertising. This method involves embedding malicious scripts into online advertisements. Clicking on such an ad can lead to the script being run on your device.

What Can Happen if Your System Gets Infected With Script-Based Malware?

The consequences of a system infected with script-based malware can be severe, impacting both individual users and organizations. Here are a few potential outcomes:

  • Data theft. Malicious scripts can extract sensitive data from your system, including usernames, passwords, credit card details, and personal information. This data can then be ransomed, sold on the dark web, or used for identity theft or fraud.
  • System damage. Some scripts are designed to modify or delete system files, which can cause significant performance issues, system instability, or even total system failure.
  • Loss of privacy. Certain malware types can convert your device into a surveillance tool, capturing keystrokes, recording conversations, or taking screenshots, which can lead to severe privacy breaches.
  • Financial loss. In the case of ransomware, the attackers encrypt your data and demand a ransom for its release. Non-compliance can lead to permanent data loss.
  • Botnet recruitment. Some scripts transform your system into a botnet. A botnet is an infected system under a hacker’s control. The hacker may decide to use your system to distribute malware, carry out DDoS attacks, or send spam emails.

Best Ways to Prevent Malicious Scripts From Getting Onto Your System

Prevention is key when it comes to dealing with script-based malware. Here are some effective strategies to safeguard your system:

  • Install a reputable antivirus. Comprehensive antivirus software can detect and neutralize malicious scripts before they infiltrate your system. Opt for software that provides excellent malware detection and real-time protection, like Norton.
  • Update software regularly. Keep your operating system and applications up-to-date. Updates often contain patches for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious scripts.
  • Be careful about emails. Exercise caution when you receive unsolicited emails, especially those with attachments or links. If in doubt, don’t click.
  • Maintain safe browsing habits. Avoid visiting sketchy websites or clicking on unverified links. Use a secure browser or browser extension that can detect and block malicious websites, such as Norton’s Safe Web.
  • Use a firewall. A firewall can prevent unauthorized access to your system, blocking potential routes of infection.
  • Download wisely. Only download software and files from trusted sources. Illegitimate or pirated software is often laced with malicious scripts.
  • Backup regularly. Regular backups can safeguard your data if a malicious script gets past your defenses. Ensure you’re backing up your data on a separate device or secure cloud storage.

Can Script-Based Malware Infect Mobile Devices?

Yes, script-based malware can indeed infect mobile devices, including iOS and Android. While iOS devices generally have strong security measures that make it significantly harder for any type of malware to infect them, they are not completely immune to script-based attacks. Android devices, on the other hand, are particularly susceptible to such threats due to their open-source nature.

Malicious scripts infect mobile devices broadly the same way they attack computers — via malicious apps, infected websites, or deceptive phishing emails. They can cause a ton of issues, ranging from data theft to system performance issues.

To protect your mobile device, consider the following steps:

  1. Install an antivirus. Numerous trusted antivirus providers offer mobile-specific security solutions that can scan and eliminate potential threats.
  2. Update regularly. Just like with desktop systems, ensure your mobile OS and apps are always updated to the latest version.
  3. Be cautious about app downloads. Only download apps from trusted sources, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, and check app permissions carefully.
  4. Avoid phishing scams. Be wary of suspicious emails or messages, even if they appear to be from known contacts or reputable organizations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do attackers execute malware through a script?

Attackers embed scripts into seemingly harmless files or web pages. For instance, a script might be hidden in a Word document or PDF file attached to an email. When the recipient opens the file, the script runs, either installing the malware directly or connecting to an external server to download the malware. The infected system might then become part of a botnet, be held hostage by ransomware, or have its sensitive data stolen.

How do script kiddies use malware?

Script kiddies (low-skill hackers) often download malware or scripts from the dark web and deploy them for various reasons, ranging from thrill seeking and proving themselves to more malicious intentions such as causing widespread disruptions or stealing data. The malware used by script kiddies can vary widely in its function, from creating botnets to launching DDoS attacks or delivering ransomware.

What is malicious code?

Malicious code is a program or piece of code intended to perform unauthorized actions that harm or compromise a system. This includes a wide variety of software, including viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, and keyloggers. Malicious code can steal sensitive data, damage or disable systems, create openings for future attacks, or take control of a system and use it to attack others.

What is script execution?

Script execution refers to the process where a system interprets and runs a script. Scripting languages such as Python, JavaScript, or PowerShell are high-level languages designed to automate tasks and manipulate files and system operations within a particular system, often with a high level of flexibility. When a script is executed, the computer reads and carries out each command sequentially, making it ideal for automating repetitive tasks or creating simple programs.

What is script-based malware?

Script-based malware is a form of malware where the harmful payload is delivered via a script. Instead of directly infecting files or disk sectors like more traditional forms of malware, script-based malware typically runs in the background of a system, often without the user’s knowledge. These scripts can be coded directly into web pages, embedded into documents, or sent as email attachments. When a user opens an infected file or visits a malicious webpage, the script executes, often resulting in the downloading and installing of malware onto their system.

Can scripts have viruses?

Yes, scripts can contain viruses or other types of malware. Malicious scripts can be used to deliver a virus to a system by exploiting vulnerabilities or tricking users into running the script. Once the script is executed, it can deploy the virus onto the system, potentially causing a wide range of problems, from stealing sensitive information to damaging system files.

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About the Author
Kamso Oguejiofor-Abugu
Updated on: July 17, 2024

About the Author

Kamso Oguejiofor is a former Content Writer at SafetyDetectives. He has over 2 years of experience writing and editing topics about cybersecurity, network security, fintech, and information security. He has also worked as a freelance writer for tech, health, beauty, fitness, and gaming publications, and he has experience in SEO writing, product descriptions/reviews, and news stories. When he’s not studying or writing, he likes to play basketball, work out, and binge watch anime and drama series.

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