An email with the subject of Notification of direct debit of fees pretending to come from HM Land Registry but actually coming from a look alike domain <email@example.com> with a malicious word doc attachment is today’s latest spoof of a well known company, bank or public authority delivering malware. in today’s case Sharik / Smoke /Dofoil Trojan
They are using email addresses and subjects that will scare or entice a user to read the email and open the attachment. A very high proportion are being targeted at small and medium size businesses, with the hope of getting a better response than they do from consumers.
Remember many email clients, especially on a mobile phone or tablet, only show the Name in the From: and not the bit in <domain.com >. That is why these scams and phishes work so well. In this case the domain is close enough to confuse or fool many recipients.
HM Land Registry 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 Government domains. Frequently there are 3 or 4 newly registered domains that imitate HM Land Registry or some message sending service that can easily be confused with a legitimate organisation in some way that send these. So far today I have found 100 similar domains all based on landregistrygovxxx.top where xxx is a number from 100-199
landregistrygov160.top was registered on 25th May 2021 via publicdomainregistry.com using what are obviously fake or stolen details and hosted on a Russian server 22.214.171.124
I have all .top ( and many other new TLD )blacklisted to protect my users. I still get copies in quarantine so we can get the spam & malware but users are protected. I don’t recall ever seeing a legitimate domain involving .top or any email that wasn’t spam, phishing or email from the .top domain.
The email looks like:
From: HM Land Registry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue 02/05/2021 12:25
Subject: Notification of direct debit of fees
Notification Date: 30/05/2021
Notification Number: 1213571945
Mandate Number: 7542341
###THIS IS AN AUTO NOTIFICATION EMAIL. DO NOT REPLY TO THE SENDER OF THIS EMAIL. IF YOU HAVE A QUERY PLEASE REFER TO THE INFORMATION BELOW ###
This is notification that Land Registry will debit 1323.95 GBP from your nominated account on or as soon as possible after 31/05/2021.
Details of fees that we shall be collecting by direct debit for the applications charged are now available to view in attached document. This document replicates the appearance of the hard copy version.
Your land and property rights: guaranteed and protected. HM Land Registry has given assurance and confidence to the property market in England and Wales since 1862. Find out more at www.gov.uk/land-registry
If you have received this email and it was not intended for you, please let us know, and then delete it. Please treat our communications in confidence, as you would expect us to treat yours. HM Land Registry checks all mail and attachments for known viruses.
Opening the word doc ( in protected mode where it is safe ) gives this which tries to convince you it is genuine and from the Land Registry
|126.96.36.199||landregistrygov160.top||Moscow||Moscow City||RU||AS48666 MAROSNET Telecommunication Company LLC|
Received: from landregistrygov160.top ([188.8.131.52]:50538)
by knight.knighthosting.co.uk with esmtp (Exim 4.89)
for email@example.com; Tue, 30 May 2021 15:04:05 +0100
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=key1; d=landregistrygov160.top;
DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=key1; d=landregistrygov160.top;
From: “HM Land Registry” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Notification of direct debit of fees
Date: Tue, 30 May 2021 16:03:10 +0200
Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=”312eed3f3a8f0fa3e299f3090d3c
apl053017_045894595.doc Current Virus total detections: Payload Security shows a download from http://184.108.40.206/jpon13.exe ( VirusTotal)
All the alleged senders, companies, names of employees, phone numbers, amounts, reference numbers etc. mentioned in the emails are all innocent and are just picked at random. Some of these companies will exist and some won’t. Don’t try to respond by phone or email, all you will do is end up with an innocent person or company who have had their details spoofed and picked at random from a long list that the bad guys have previously found .
The bad guys choose companies, Government departments and other organisations with subjects that are designed to entice you or alarm you into blindly opening the attachment or clicking the link in the email to see what is happening.
This email attachment contains what appears to be a genuine word doc or Excel XLS spreadsheet with either a macro script or an embedded OLE object that when run will infect you.
Modern versions of Microsoft office, that is Office 2010, 2013, 2016 and Office 365 should be automatically set to higher security to protect you.
By default protected view (https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/What-is-Protected-View-d6f09ac7-e6b9-4495-8e43-2bbcdbcb6653) is enabled and macros are disabled, UNLESS you or your company have enabled them. If protected view (https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/What-is-Protected-View-d6f09ac7-e6b9-4495-8e43-2bbcdbcb6653) mode is turned off and macros are enabled then opening this malicious word document will infect you, and simply previewing it in windows explorer or your email client might well be enough to infect you. Definitely DO NOT follow the advice they give to enable macros or enable editing to see the content.
Most of these malicious word documents either appear to be totally blank or look something like these images when opened in protected view (https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/What-is-Protected-View-d6f09ac7-e6b9-4495-8e43-2bbcdbcb6653) mode, which should be the default in Office 2010, 2013, 2016 and 365. Some versions pretend to have a digital RSA key and say you need to enable editing and Macros to see the content. Do NOT enable Macros or editing under any circumstances.
What Can Be Infected By This
At this time, these malicious macros only infect windows computers. They do not affect a Mac, IPhone, IPad, Blackberry, Windows phone or Android phone.
The malicious word or excel file can open on any device with an office program installed, and potentially the macro will run on Windows or Mac or any other device with Microsoft Office installed. BUT the downloaded malware that the macro tries to download is windows specific, so will not harm, install or infect any other computer except a windows computer. You will not be infected if you do not have macros enabled in Excel or Word. These Macros do not run in “Office Online” (https://products.office.com/en-gb/office-online/documents-spreadsheets-presentations-office-online) Open Office, Libre Office, Word Perfect or any other office program that can read Word or Excel files.
Please read our How to protect yourselves page (https://myonlinesecurity.co.uk/how-to-protect-yourself-and-tighten-security/) 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
Be very careful with email attachments. All of these emails use Social engineering (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_engineering_(security)) tricks to persuade you to open the attachments that come with the email. It might be a simple message saying “look at this picture of me I took last night” that appears to come from a friend. It might be a scare ware message that will make you open the attachment to see what you are accused of doing. Frequently it is more targeted at somebody ( small companies etc.) who regularly receive PDF attachments or Word .doc attachments or any other common file that you use every day, for example an invoice addressed to email@example.com.
The basic rule is NEVER open any attachment to an email, unless you are expecting it. Now that is very easy to say but quite hard to put into practice, because we all get emails with files attached to them. Our friends and family love to send us pictures of them doing silly things, or even cute pictures of the children or pets. Many of us routinely get Word, Excel or PowerPoint attachments in the course of work or from companies that we already have a relationship with.
Never just blindly click on the file in your email program. Always save the file to your downloads folder, so you can check it first. A lot of malicious files that are attached to emails will have a faked extension. That is the 3 letters at the end of the file name.
Unfortunately windows by default hides the file extensions so you need to Set your folder options to “show known file types. Then when you unzip the zip file that is supposed to contain the pictures of “Sally’s dog catching a ball”, an invoice or receipt from some company for a product or service or receive a Word doc or Excel file report that work has supposedly sent you to finish working on at the weekend, you can easily see if it is a picture or document & not a malicious program. If you see JS or .EXE or .COM or .PIF or .SCR or .HTA .vbs, .wsf , .jse .jar at the end of the file name DO NOT click on it or try to open it, it will infect you.
With these malformed infected word, excel and other office documents that normally contain a vba macro virus, the vital thing is do not open any office document direct from your email client or the web. Always save the document to a safe location on your computer, normally your downloads folder or your documents folder and scan it with your antivirus.
Many Antiviruses do not natively detect vba macro-viruses in real time protection and you need to enable document or office protection in the settings. Do not rely on your Anti-Virus to immediately detect the malware or malicious content. DO NOT enable editing mode or enable macros
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 files and PowerPoint etc that are downloaded from the web or received in an email automatically in “protected view” (https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/What-is-Protected-View-d6f09ac7-e6b9-4495-8e43-2bbcdbcb6653) that stops any embedded malware or macros 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 until you are 100% sure that it is a safe document. If the protected mode bar appears when opening the document DO NOT enable editing mode or enable macros the document will look blank or have a warning message, but will be safe.
Be aware that there are a lot of 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 starting to outweigh the convenience, benefits and cost of keeping an old version going.
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.