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