With the world becoming more technologically advanced each day, it is also becoming increasingly vulnerable. Coding is crucial in almost every technology area, including cyber security.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of scripting in cyber security.
What is Scripting?
Scripting is a type of coding that automates repetitive and routine tasks. It involves writing a series of instructions, or scripts, that can be executed automatically to perform a specific function or process.
All scripting languages are programming languages. In other words, scripting languages provide instructions for a runtime environment.
Unlike compiled languages, which are translated into machine code before being executed, scripting languages are interpreted and executed directly. This allows applications to receive new features and ties complex systems together. A scripting language is a computer language that is designed to integrate and interact with other programming languages.
Some Famous Scripting languages
There are many scripting languages, but here is a list of some of the most commonly used ones:
- Python: This is a free and open-source language that supports both procedural and object-oriented programming. It is widely used for tasks such as license compliance, compatibility, and security. Python is known for its simplicity and dynamism, and is a popular choice for beginners as well as for more complex data analytics problems.
- Bash: Bash is a command line interpreter that is commonly used in the Linux operating system to run commands. It is highly flexible, as it was designed without any specific programming knowledge in mind.
- Ruby: The ruby scripting language is named after the “King of Gemstones,” and is similarly prized in the world of technology. It can be used to write Common Gateway Interface scripts and embedded in Hypertext Markup Language. Ruby is easy to learn, highly scalable, flexible, and easy to maintain.
- Perl: This language is primarily used for text processing and manipulation tasks. It supports both procedural and object-oriented programming, and is commonly used in web development and GUI development. Perl is a bit harder to learn than some other scripting languages, but is highly flexible and has unique features that make it popular.
Types of Scripting Languages
There are two main types of scripting languages:
- Server-side scripting languages: These languages are executed on a web server. The script is used behind the scenes, so the user cannot see it. As a result, server-side scripting languages are generally more secure than client-side scripting languages. They are commonly used to build dynamic web pages, respond to user queries, and provide data, among other tasks.
- Client-side scripting languages: These languages are executed within the user’s web browser. Since they are used on the front end, the user can see the script, which reduces their security. Client-side scripting languages are commonly used to create user interfaces and related functions. They are also faster to execute than server-side scripting languages because they do not require interaction with the web server.
Advantages of Scripting Languages
- Open source: Most scripting languages are open source, which means they are free to use and can be easily downloaded from the internet. This allows anyone from around the world to contribute to their development.
- Easy to learn: Scripting languages are generally simple and intuitive, making them a great way for beginners to start learning and exploring the world of technology.
- Low memory usage: Because scripting languages are interpreted rather than compiled, they use less memory because no executable file needs to be stored.
- Portability: Scripting languages can be used across different operating systems and platforms.
- Flexibility: Scripting languages are highly flexible and can be effective with just a few data structures and variables.
- Interactivity: Scripting languages are essential for creating modern, interactive websites. They make it easy to incorporate visualization interfaces and other features into web pages.
- Functionality: Many scripting languages come with a range of libraries that provide additional functionality. These libraries are often different from those found in conventional programming languages and can help developers create innovative apps for web browsers.
Disadvantages of Scripting Languages
- Slower execution time: Because scripting languages are interpreted rather than compiled, they typically take longer to execute than compiled languages. This is because the interpreter must translate each statement into machine code and then execute it, whereas compiled languages are translated into machine code and then executed all at once.
- Lack of optimality: Since the interpreter in a scripting language examines each statement one at a time while it is being executed, it is not able to make optimizations to speed up the code in the same way that a compiled language can. This can make scripting languages less efficient than compiled languages in some cases.
Scripting in Cybersecurity
Attackers may use scripts in several ways to carry out cyber attacks. For example, they may run scripts directly on a target computer or include them in PDF and Office documents that are emailed to the victim.
Some of the attacks that use scripting languages include:
- PowerShell: In this type of attack, the victim is tricked into downloading a PDF file through a phishing attack. When the victim opens the file, hidden scripts run in the PowerShell, bypassing security measures and corrupting the memory. This allows the attacker to gain access to the targeted system and gain privileges and permissions.
- HTML Application (HTA): Malicious HTA files provide scripts with the ability to operate the computer with local user rights, allowing them to download and run additional executables or scripts. Despite being an outdated attack vector, HTA files are still commonly used in script-based attacks. These files may be downloaded by another script, provided as attachments, or accessed through malicious website redirection.
- VBScript: VBScript (Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition) is a Microsoft scripting language that is based on VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). Unlike VBA, which offers complete program development, VBScript focuses on job automation for system administrators. Similar to PowerShell and often used in script-based attacks, VBScript is often used for comparison purposes. Another factor that makes Microsoft attractive to attackers is the company’s support for script encoding in the form of VBE files.
In conclusion, scripting languages are commonly used in cyber attacks due to their ease of use and ability to bypass security measures. For this reason, it is important for individuals working in cybersecurity to have a thorough understanding of scripting languages in order to protect their systems from attacks and prevent sensitive data from being stolen. Care should be taken when using scripting languages, as improper use can lead to memory leaks and vulnerabilities.