Malicious code

Learn about this cyber risk

Learn Malicious code

Wendy Rodriguez

Have you ever caught a cold so bad that you can’t function properly? This uncomfortable situation can also happen in a computer or another IT system, turning it out of sorts. This is caused by what is known as malicious code or malware, which can take many forms. Just as a virus infiltrates and harms the cells in a body, a malicious code can creep in and infect systems and files. But, just what are the possible effects of malicious code? There are several unsettling consequences, which can lead to permanent and costly damages. First things first:

What is malicious code?

Malicious code, also known as malware or rogue program, is a type of software developed to cause harm to devices, networks, applications, or systems, which can take the form of a virus, trojan, worm, ransomware, adware, spyware, among others. Malware is often created to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information, snatch data, damage files, disrupt systems, take control of a device remotely, or breach an application, and the effects they can possibly carry.

What are possible indications of a malicious code attack?

Before going into details on the possible disastrous effects of malicious code attacks, it would serve you well to recognize some early signs of malware running in your devices. The following are some of those indicators:

  • Lagging execution of hardware or software or crashing applications

  • Challenges logging in to accounts

  • Lost access to files

  • Receiving a ransomware note

  • Unaccounted-for documents or funds

  • Uncommon pop-up windows or spamming ads

  • Spiked internet activity or consumed system’s resources

Don’t become complacent even if everything appears to be going smoothly in your system; no news isn't always good news. The best way to prevent cybersecurity breaches (like this epic leak) is by being backed up by constant security testing, which, in addition to being a valuable preventive strategy, is a learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Get started with Fluid Attacks' Secure Code Review solution right now

How can malicious code cause damage?

Malware can wreak havoc once it has been allowed to run free, especially if the victim is unaware or unprepared, but depending on the type of malicious code and the method used (social engineering, vulnerability exploitation, malicious scripts, etc.), damages could start being perceived. For example, gaining access to private information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card numbers, and stealing that data, disrupting operations, rendering applications useless by slowing them down, and, if caught off-guard, spreading across other devices connected to a network.

In worst-case scenarios, malicious code has been known to take control of a device remotely and lock the victim out or delete important files, as well as reformat hard drives or hold a company ransom by blocking access to systems until exorbitant fees are paid. The damage caused will always depend on what variety of malware the attacker chooses to use and the intent of the attack.

Examples of malicious code attacks

Malicious code comes in different varieties; here are some of the most common types:

  • Trojan horse: Generally called Trojan, it is intended to disguise itself as a legitimate program when, in reality, it’s a virus that could destroy data, steal it, or give the hacker access to the compromised system.

  • Spyware: Created to monitor, register, and collect information from a company or a person, often done unbeknownst to the victim. This malware sends data back to the malicious attacker without any consent.

  • Worm: A malicious code that seeks to spread itself through a network. The propagation of this malware can lead to an entire company’s systems being taken down. It’s a reflection of the security failure the targeted devices have.

  • Adware: Also known as spam, these malicious advertisements can cause a device’s performance to lag or annoying pop-up windows to show, which can bring with them more dangerous viruses hidden in links.

  • Ransomware: As the name illustrates, it’s a hostage situation where files or entire systems are held for ransom to be paid,usually in cryptocurrency, by the victim before a deadline.

All these types of malware can have different consequences, so what are the possible effects of malicious code?

Possible effects of malicious code

As far as the consequences of malicious code attacks go, the possibilities can be severely damaging with untiring repercussions. Its reach will be subjected to the kind of damage the malicious actor wants to cause, but here are some effects it could have on a company or other victim:

  • Stolen data: The victim’s data could be sold or used for unwanted or illegal purchases. If what was taken were credentials or personal identification, they can be altered or reused for unknown purposes, economic fraud, or even company espionage.

  • Spying: Eavesdropping, surveillance, or espionage, all situations involving spyware that is designed to secretly monitor, record keystrokes, capture screenshots, or gain access to microphones or cameras in computers.

  • Interrupted systems: Malicious code may overload the system’s resources, causing crashes or performance problems, interrupting the functioning and flow of an application or a network.

  • System hijacking: Worst-case scenarios where ransomware executes and takes control can range from irreversible alterations in a system’s files to disruptions in a nation’s service delivery (e.g., Colonial Pipelines).

  • Corrupted or deleted data: Documentation loss, system vulnerability, or application failure can result from different types of malicious code altering, corrupting, or deleting data from the infected system.

In addition to the mentioned above about the possible effect of malicious code attacks, it’s worth noting that the aftermath will impact security and business alike. Your company's reputation can be damaged forever —something that will also affect its competition in the marketplace and perhaps open the door to legal repercussions.

How does malicious code access a system?

The internet is a gateway for cybercriminals to attempt to access private information, applications, or devices. You’re vulnerable anytime you go online and access your email account to open malspam, download applications from unknown sources, visit (unbeknownst to you) hacked websites, or click on malicious ads or links. Malware could also spread through removable plugs like a USB flash drive.

How to prevent the spread of malicious code?

The best approach to prevent malicious code attacks is a proactive one. There are simple means to be protected against malware:

"Prevent the spread of malicious code"

Prevent the spread of malicious code

Automated tools and human expertise can help prevent attacks from malicious actors, which at this point, are not showing signs of slowing down. The Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report informs that 83% of breaches are executed by external actors who are not only seeking monetary retribution, but also to cause damages and gain popularity. Tackling cybersecurity with the correct combination of people (ethical hackers or pentesters) and technology (scanners or tools) will ensure an all-around safeguard against malicious code attacks.

Source code review can help you in this case, so contact us if you want more information about this or other services, like Continuous Hacking. Click here to try our Continuous Hacking Essential plan free for 21 days.


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