What is a payload in hacking – Penetration Testing

So the question is What is a payload in hacking? Payloads are scripts that contain malicious code, a hacker can use it to interact with a compromised system. Their are 3 main groups of Payloads.

  • Singles
  • Staged
  • Stages

In this guide you will learn:

  • Payloads
  • Difference between Payloads, Exploits, Shellcode
  • Can payloads be undetectable


Singles: Singles are very small and used to perform simple commands for your information gathering phase.

Stagers: Stagers are used to download a large payload by sending it into memory. Stagers itself are small and used to create communication between the attacker and the target. Its great for allowing re-use because it separates the communication from the attacking phase.

Stages: Stages is a payload component that Stagers download. Because the stagers payload takes care of the communications, the stages themselves can be quite large and contain multiple options

Difference between Payloads, Exploits, and Shellcode?

What is a payload in hacking

A lot of people get payloads, exploits and shellcode mixed up, Let us break down the definitions so you can easily differentiate them.

Exploits: A exploit is a way that a attacker or pentester takes a vulnerability in a application, system, or service. The attacker uses the exploit to attack the system. Examples of this include SQL injection, Misconfigured systems and Buffer overflows

Shellcode: A list of commands that can be executed after injecting the code into a running application. This is a series of instructions that are used as a payload when a vulnerability is exploited. Shell code is usually written in assembly language. In most cases, a shell will be acquired after the target machine has executed the instruction set.

Can payloads be undetectable?

A question I have seen a lot circulating around the web is can payloads be undetectable? Well most times they will be immediately detected by simple antivirus scanners as well as windows defender. Even if you have written one yourself the outcome is similar.

Solution 1:The best advise I can suggest is to get your payload crypted with a stub. Which may help bypass AV detection because of it looking like a innocent program. You can check out this article for writing your own crypter: https://netsec.expert/posts/write-a-crypter-in-any-language/

Solution 2: Another suggestion if that seems to difficult would be to try out Veil framework. It was designed to create Metasploit payloads and help them bypass most common AV. You can read more about it https://github.com/Veil-Framework/Veil

Background on Veil-Framework: A collection of tools created for security testing. The 2.0 version of veil has been available to the public since June 2003.

Final Thoughts on: What is a payload in hacking:

We have cover a great deal of what is a payload as well as showed you the differences between exploits, shellcode and payloads. If you have any other topics you would like to discuss or if you would like to write for us please feel free to contact us! Also check out more of our articles on cyberanswers.

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