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Payload definition

The part of malicious software that performs the hostile action, such as deleting or encrypting data, logging your keystrokes, or sending out spam.

Payload execution

Once the malware has entered a device, it may stay dormant for months, waiting to be triggered. There are several ways it can be executed:

  • Executable file. The victim launches an executable file they downloaded, believing it’s a piece of regular software, but it allows the malware to deploy the payload on the device.
  • Non-executable file. Image or audio files may also contain a malicious payload. Once the user launches them, they inadvertently execute the payload.
  • Meeting a set of conditions. Attackers might put in place logical conditions (like a date, time of day, visiting a specific website, etc.) that will trigger the payload execution when met. This type of payload execution is called a logic bomb.

How to prevent a malicious payload

To avoid payload executing on your device, you should avoid getting it there in the first place:

  • Be mindful of spam. Whenever an email looks the least bit suspicious, tread carefully and don’t click any links or download attachments.
  • Don’t use pirated software. Only download software from official app stores or directly from the developers.
  • Use NordVPN. Its Threat Protection feature will scan your downloaded files, and if malware is detected, it will delete them immediately.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security

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