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I have a question about malware. Malware attacks a machine through an attack vector. When it infiltrates the machine, it "unleashes" the payload. Now, let's say that I am infected by a virus, which was downloaded and installed without my knowledge via an internet webpage (or a pop-up or whatever).

So, the attack vector is the delivery method, the payload is the actual malware. What is the term for a function/method, which called, initiates the transfer of the virus (from a webpage)?

To elaborate, by my understanding for a person to actually get infected by malware, there has to be a 3 step process. I do not know the term for step 1.

  1 = ?

  2 = Attack Vector

  3 = Payload

Step 1 initiates the Attack Vector. IE. it detects the vulnerability of the FlashPlayer.

A malware infection consists of all 3 steps, yes?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Rory Alsop Jul 5 '16 at 6:58

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    A function with vulnerability? Vulnerable function? More colloquially, a vulnerability? – techraf Jul 5 '16 at 2:59
  • Lets say the explicit purpose of this webpage is infecting visitors with a virus. Attack vector is the vulnerability of the flashplayer. What is the function/method called which initiates the attack vector... – DrDoom Jul 5 '16 at 3:08
  • To elaborate. When I try to explain (to myself) how malware works I know it can only work when the payload (actual malware) is transfered to the machine. It is transfered via the attack vector. I am missing 1 step here, which is the initiation of the attack vector. So, I'm missing step 1... Step 1 = ?, Step 2 = Attack Vector, Step 3 = Payload – DrDoom Jul 5 '16 at 3:17
  • What do you mean by "it detects the vulnerability of the FlashPlayer"? That's usually called a hacker. – techraf Jul 5 '16 at 3:39
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    If you call your example a process, then at step 1 you've got a clean system with a vulnerability. – techraf Jul 5 '16 at 4:03
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There is no commonly used word for the action you are describing, which from your explanation seems to be: the act of exposing the vulnerability to a 3rd party.

Thus the closest English gerunds, I can think of, would be: exposing the vulnerability, opening the vulnerability, activating the vulnerability.

The first one probably fits best, but beware that the noun exposure has a well-defined meaning in this realm.

Opening also fits the common usage in which it is used for a dynamic situation allowing an attack. Per Wikipedia on boxing: "[a punch] exploits the opening created in an opponent's guard".


I think "vulnerability" fits the example you've included after my initial comments.

  • But that's not what the question is about, that's what you asked for in comments. – techraf Jul 5 '16 at 4:34
  • OP's comments to my answer are even more confusing. I'm voting to close this question until OP is more clear about what is wanted. – h4ckNinja Jul 5 '16 at 4:41
  • And yes vulnerability is as close as we are going to get. Thanks for trying and sorry for wasting your time. Really appreciate it. – DrDoom Jul 5 '16 at 5:10
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Short answer: Vulnerability

Longer answer:

The vulnerability in a flash player is what is exploited to deliver the payload. How the payload is delivered is the attack vector, which is, this case, a web page.

Let's work backwards.

  • Payload: Payload is the code that infects the victim. In this case, it is malware on a computer.
  • Attack vector: This is the delivery method. Phishing is a common attack vector.
  • Vulnerability: This is the flaw in the application (Flash).
  • Exploit: Delivery of the payload to a vulnerability.
  • OK, I accept this answer. But is there a term for the initiation of the Attack Vector. It doesn't attack out of the blue...There has to be a vulnerability to attack, but is there a term for the initiation of this attack... I know I'm going in circles... =( – DrDoom Jul 5 '16 at 4:10
  • Yes, you are going in circles. The vulnerability is what is attacked. How, the website, is the vector. – h4ckNinja Jul 5 '16 at 4:34
  • @DrDoom Are you asking about discovery of vulnerabilities? The vulnerability is what is attacked. Discovery of the vulnerability is done by a human before a website is setup to delivery the attack. – h4ckNinja Jul 5 '16 at 4:40
  • No, that is not what I had in mind. My question focuses on the initiation of the attack vector. Human discovers the vulnerability which he will use as the attack vector. Now the website is set up, so it automatically attacks if this vulnerability is detected. I would like to know how the "automatic attack"/initiation of the attack is called. – DrDoom Jul 5 '16 at 4:47
  • @DrDoom It doesn't "automatically attack." The website is built to exploit the vulnerability, delivering the payload. – h4ckNinja Jul 5 '16 at 4:49

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