Remote Code Execution by dangerous hacker on computers

Plenty of dangerous cyber threats put your system and, more importantly, personal information at risk, and remote code execution (RCE) is one such cyber attack that can do a lot of damage.

Without physically accessing your PC, threat actors can install malware, steal sensitive data and take control of your computer by executing a code in a remote location. There’s virtually no risk for the attacker, making it a convenient method to cause mayhem on your system.

If you’ve landed on a suspicious website, have random system tray icons lying around or opened a dodgy file that’s causing your Windows PC to behave strangely, then RCE may be the culprit.

This guide will explain what remote code execution is and how to protect yourself against RCE attacks using the best antivirus software.

Remote Code Execution on Windows: Quick fixes

To prevent and stop any remote code execution attack from stealing valuable data and damaging your computer, it’s a good idea to be aware of the files and software installed on your device. Don’t open suspicious links in emails or websites; be wary of installing apps you don’t trust.

If you think your Windows PC may be infected, we recommend following the steps below to remove anything that could result in an RCE attack.

  1. Uninstall unwanted or suspicious programs

    Windows Settings uninstall apps to remove system tray icon

    You may notice icons or apps in the taskbar, system tray or on your desktop that you are unfamiliar with. If you haven’t installed any of these yourself, you need to uninstall any apps or programs that aren’t required. This will stop any apps with malicious code from damaging your system.

    Go to Settings > Apps > Installed apps. Find the apps that showed up unexpectedly without your permission. Click the menu (horizontal three dots) next to the app and select Uninstall

    Additionally, you can head to Apps for websites to see if there are any unwanted apps you don’t need and toggle the switch to off. 

  2. Remove unfamiliar process with high disk usage

    High Disk Usage Task Manager Settings on Windows

    If a random app you’re not familiar with is causing high disk usage, making your PC slow down, you’ll want to remove it. Once you identify what’s taking up a significant amount of read/write operation resources, you can quickly stop the process. 

    To do this, you’ll need to open Task Manager. Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC or right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager to open the app. 

    Click on the Disk tab to see all running apps and background processes in order of disk usage. 

    If a process is highlighted orange and runs over 1MB/s or 2MB/s, it takes up too much disk usage. If you see anything near 100% disk usage, these will contribute to this and need to be stopped. This is especially true if there’s an unfamiliar process running without you realising it. 

    Right-click the app or background process taking up resources and select End task

  3. Update your software and restart your computer

    Windows PC Update Settings

    Updating your Windows PC software and restarting your computer can often update known vulnerabilities that give threat actors a chance to use remote code execution attacks, as it can also fend off malicious software. 

    Cybercriminals take advantage of security vulnerabilities on your device. These zero-day vulnerabilities allow cybercriminals to exploit computer systems until developers mitigate them, which can cause major damage. 

    Updating your system’s software can resolve the issue. A software update often contains security patches that help protect your device, as developers work to protect users from known zero-day attacks and other forms of malware trying to infect your device, especially with unfamiliar processes. 

    You can update your device through its settings. For example, you can update your Windows PC by navigating to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Check for updates. If there are any, download and install the update. 

  4. Change your passwords

    Norton 360 Password Manager

    If there are random apps popping up and your PC is acting strangely, chances are your PC has been infected with a virus or malware as part of a remote code execution attack, and your online accounts and devices are at risk of being compromised.

    To help mitigate potential malware threats or hackers taking control of your accounts, change your passwords and use a strong password to stop suspicious activity. 

    Using password managers such as LastPass or 1Password can help manage all your passwords in one place, create a complex, near-unbreakable master password and encrypt your information. 

    Changing passwords will stop hackers from trying to steal any sensitive information and your online accounts. 

  5. Use antivirus software to detect and stop malware

    Norton 360 Security and Settings

    Being a victim of a remote code execution attack isn’t ideal. So, to make sure your device and your information is protected at all time, using one of the best antivirus software like Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) will keep you safe from any malicious software, like ransomware, adware, spyware, phishing and RCE attacks.

    That’s not all; antivirus software can provide extra features like VPNs, dark web monitoring and more. Norton 360 has all these features and extra security tools that can backup your data, prevent online identity theft and stop malware. 

    What’s more, Norton 360 comes with monitoring features to identify all suspicious activity on your device. It will help detect and notify you about any unusual activity, including unfamiliar apps on your device, and stop it using it’s protection tools. 

    Check out our Norton 360 review and Norton 360 Platinum review to see which antivirus package suits you best.

What is Remote Code Execution (RCE)?

Remote code execution (RCE) is a type of cyberattack in which an attacker can execute code on a remote computer without physically accessing the computer. There are various types of attacks associated with RCE. Still, the most common trait is that they all exploit vulnerabilities on your device to run arbitrary code through remote servers or computers.

Once a threat actor gains RCE on a system, it can lead to malware installation, stolen data, remote computer control, and disruption of operation. The potential risk of damage is extremely high because of the variety of ways an attacker can use an RCE attack. This makes it a severe threat you’ll need to remove immediately.

Visual tech to secure systems against Remote Code Execution

Examples of Remote Code Execution Attacks

Because remote code execution can be categorised as various attacks, it can affect your computer in different ways. This includes:

– Injection attacks involve injecting malicious code into a vulnerable application. This can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities in SQL queries, web forms, or input fields.

– Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks involve injecting malicious code into a web page. When a victim visits the web page, the malicious code is executed in their browser.

– Privilege escalation attacks allow attackers to gain higher access to a computer system. This can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems, applications, or system configuration files.

This is why it’s essential to stay safe against all forms of cyber threats, especially those that exploit system vulnerabilities. Using a trustworthy antivirus can mitigate these attacks.

Can any antivirus software stop viruses and malware?

The best antivirus software will stop malware in its tracks. Not all antivirus software is equal, as some don’t have high malware detection and protection rates or have accredited lab scores to back them up.

However, many high-standard AV protections offer near-perfect scores when detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed. If your system has a vulnerability, the right antivirus will be able to identify malicious code trying to exploit its weakness and get rid of it.

Services, including Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) and Bitdefender (from $19.99/year), include device monitoring features to help uncover suspicious activity early and offer the tools to fight off cyberattacks. Whether its a phishing attack, ransomware, spyware or infostealer malware, these security products have the tools to protect you.

These services have protection features that block malicious activity on your device. To make sure your device is ready to identify and block malware damaging your system, set yourself up with an antivirus.

Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

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You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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