This example is an email containing the subject of “REF: Notification of payment collection” pretending to come from HMRC but actually coming from a look-a-like or typo-squatted domain < firstname.lastname@example.org > with a malicious word doc attachment is today’s latest spoof of a well-known company, bank or public authority delivering Trickbot banking Trojan. The initial word doc downloads Smoke Loader and that in turn downloads other malware including Trickbot banking trojan. Since posting this several Analysts have looked at this “new” version of Trickbot and discovered it now has a Monero mining component included along with its Bank Account and password stealing capabilities. http://malware-traffic-analysis.net/2018/02/01/index.html. has good write up on it.
In the UK it the time of year when we all have to do our tax returns and will get correspondence from HMRC telling us how much to pay. Be very wary of any email saying it is from HMRC. They normally do everything by letter, not email with word attachments.
You can now submit suspicious sites, emails and files via our Submissions system
From: HMRC Business Help and Support Emails <email@example.com>
Date: Thu 01/02/2018 15:01
Subject: REF: Notification of payment collection
Dear tax payer,
REF: Notification of payment collection
Please find attached your final statement of liability which confirms the payment we are arranging to collect now.
Please note that this statement is for reconciliation purposes ONLY; dispute period is now over and we are not able to make any late amends to this statement nor amend the payment we are about to collect.
Please note that failure to make timely payments could result in additional assessment and may charge you interest.
HMRC has not been hacked or had their email or other servers compromised. They are not sending the emails to you. They are just innocent victims in exactly the same way as every recipient of these emails.
What has happened is that the criminals sending these have registered various domains that look like genuine Company, Bank, Government or message sending services. Normally there are between 2 and 4 newly registered domains that imitate Companies House, HMRC, another Government department, a Bank or a message sending service that can easily be confused with the genuine organisation in some way. Some days however we do see dozens or even hundreds of fake domains. I am informed that there are hundreds of notificationsemailgovuk***.top domains sending these
Today’s example of the spoofed domain is registered via alpnames.com as registrar using obviously fake details
- notificationsemailgovuk033.top hosted on 18.104.22.168 AS22439 Perfect International, Inc
The initial word doc from the email looks like this. By highlighting and allegedly concealing the important details like names, addresses and amounts to pay, telling you that you need to enable macros to see the concealed details, is using very good social engineering tricks to persuade you to enable content & macros. The criminals running this malware campaign have got their act together for a change on this one.
If you enable content and macros this will download and display an innocent word doc ( that appears to be a copy of a genuine HMRC outstanding payment notice) from http://22.214.171.124/prepayment.docx
This malware doc file downloads from http://126.96.36.199/prep1.exe ( VirusTotal)
An alternate download location embedded in the macro is http://188.8.131.52/prep1.exe
The various malware files involved in this campaign contact various innocent legitimate sites including support.microsoft.com, Adobe.com, Videolan.org, Bing.com
It also tries to contact a couple of what are most likely the C2 http://unriquestan.com/ ( 184.108.40.206) and http://unstopabless.com/ (220.127.116.11) both giving 404 to Anyrun
All modern versions of word and other office programs, that is 2010, 2013, 2016 and 365, should open all Microsoft office documents that is Word docs, Excel spreadsheet files and PowerPoint etc that are downloaded from the web or received in an email automatically in “protected view” that stops any embedded malware, macros and this DDE “exploit /Feature” from being displayed and running. Make sure protected view is set in all office programs to protect you and your company from these sorts of attacks and do not over ride it to edit the document. If the protected mode bar appears when opening the document DO NOT follow the advice they give to enable macros or enable editing to see the content. The document will have a warning message, but you will be safe.
Be aware that there are a lot of other dodgy word docs spreading that WILL infect you with no action from you, if you are still using an out dated or vulnerable version of word. This is a good reason to update your office programs to a recent version and stop using office 2003 and 2007. Many of us have continued to use older versions of word and other office programs, because they are convenient, have the functions and settings we are used to and have never seen a need to update to the latest super-duper version.
The risks in using older version are now seriously outweighing the convenience, benefits and cost of keeping an old version going.
Please read our How to protect yourselves page for simple, sensible advice on how to avoid being infected by this sort of socially engineered malware. Also please read our post about word macro malware and how to avoid being infected by them
I strongly urge you to update your office software to the latest version and stop putting yourself at risk, using old out of date software.