What is script-based malware?

What is script-based malware - Paubox

Script-based malware is a type of cyberattack that leverages a system’s existing applications and tools. Favored by hackers for its ability to outsmart standard endpoint security solutions, this sophisticated technique can be used to capture credentials, compromise data, and cause damage to a device.

Let’s explore how script-based malware works, the different sources to be aware of, and important steps to stay protected. 

What is script-based malware? 

Script-based malware refers to any instance of abusing legitimate scripts to execute commands and obtain control over a machine. Since scripting languages are often specifically designed to accelerate processes, the seamless capabilities offer an easy path for hackers to build network connections and interact within environments. 

Many of these infections are also fileless, which means they only operate in memory. This makes it challenging to determine where the infection started and conduct an effective analysis. Even once an incident is identified as malware, variants can be quickly developed through script-based methods. 

How does script-based malware work?

Scripts provide the initial point of access to a computer, which makes room for payload delivery and lateral movement. The payload works to carry out a desired action, such as collecting information or encrypting files. Simultaneously, lateral movement leads to the infiltration of additional computers in the network. 

In order to remain undetected, hackers frequently lean on trusted Windows components for their attacks. Originally made to streamline management processes, PowerShell is a common program of choice for speeding up data infection. This usually occurs through an email phishing attack with a dropper, such as a PDF or Microsoft Office file. VBScript is a similar automation tool that may be found in script-based cybercrimes. 

Other potential sources include HTML Application (HTA) and JavaScript. Generally delivered in the form of an attachment or download, malicious HTA files enable access to user privileges for launching executables or more scripts. Typically accomplished by tricking a user into visiting a compromised website, infected JavaScript codes allow hackers to find vulnerabilities and ultimately gain control over functions on a victim’s device. 

Ways to reduce your risk 

Although script-based malware is highly deceptive, you can minimize your potential attack surface by limiting script execution privileges and actively monitoring the use of PowerShell across your organization. Additionally, keep the following cybersecurity strategies top-of-mind. 

  • Avoid downloading files or attachments from unknown sources. 
  • Refrain from visiting websites or installing programs that you don’t fully understand or trust. 
  • Prioritize keeping all of your browsers, applications, and operating systems updated. 
  • Make sure that your network is secured with a strong password.

Eliminate future threats

According to WatchGuard’s Internet Security Report for Q1 2021, 74% of malware attacks were able to successfully evade detection by traditional antivirus software. That’s why it’s best to cover all of your bases with HIPAA compliant email

Paubox Email Suite automatically encrypts every outbound email to keep protected health information (PHI) secure. It integrates directly with your existing email platform, such as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365.  Patients receive your emails directly to their inboxes, no password or portal required.

Additionally, our Plus and Premium plan levels include powerful inbound email security tools that help block script-based malware and other sneak attacks. Our patent-pending Zero Trust Security feature requires multiple pieces of evidence before any email is delivered, while ExecProtect catches display name spoofing attempts right off the bat. 

Try Paubox Email Suite Plus for FREE today.

About the author

Sara Uzer

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