An email with the subject of ID 8d6ba737-775e8bdc-f95f16f3-1b460259 – Company Complaint pretending to come from Companies House <email@example.com> with a malicious word doc attachment delivers Trickbot
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.
Companies House 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. The domain sending these is a fake domain owned by the criminals ( see below for details)
The email looks like:
From: Companies House <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu 16/02/2017 11:23
Subject: ID 8d6ba737-775e8bdc-f95f16f3-1b460259 – Company Complaint
This message has been generated in response to the company complaint submitted to Companies House.
(CC01) Company Complaint for the above company was accepted on 16/02/2017. Please check attached documents for more information.
The submission number is id: 8d6ba737-775e8bdc-f95f16f3-1b460259
Please quote this number in any communications with Companies House.
Note: Attached documents are encrypted with a unique Private Key.
Service Desk tel +44 (0)303 8097 432 or email email@example.com
Note: This email was sent from a notification-only email address which cannot accept incoming email. Please do not reply directly to this message
If you’re unsure an email is from Companies House:
· Do not reply to it or click on any links
· Report the suspicious email to Companies House
All content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0, except where otherwise stated
If you open the word doc you see a screen looking like this . DO NOT enable macros or content or enable editing, you will be infected
16 February 2017 : 8d6ba737-775e8bdc-f95f16f3-1b460259.doc Current Virus total detections: Payload Security Neither shows the download but it looks like the download location for the trickbot payload is http://www.sungkrorsang.com/hustonweare.png which is not an image file but a renamed .exe (VirusTotal) ( Payload Security )
As usual the domain sending these was registered by criminals today 16 February 2017 using Godaddy, with what are certain to be fake details
Domain Whois record
Queried whois.nic.uk with “companieshousecomplaints.uk“…
Domain name: companieshousecomplaints.uk Registrant: Lovejeet Mehra Registrant type: Unknown Registrant's address: 39 Hurstwood Road Birmingham Birmingham B23 5BZ United Kingdom Data validation: Nominet was able to match the registrant's name and address against a 3rd party data source on 16-Feb-2017 Registrar: GoDaddy.com, LLP. [Tag = GODADDY] URL: http://uk.godaddy.com Relevant dates: Registered on: 16-Feb-2017 Expiry date: 16-Feb-2018 Last updated: 16-Feb-2017 Registration status: Registered until expiry date. Name servers: ns47.domaincontrol.com ns48.domaincontrol.com WHOIS lookup made at 11:30:58 16-Feb-2017
|184.108.40.206||companieshousecomplaints.co.uk||San Antonio||Texas||US||AS19994 Rackspace Hosting|
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 is enabled and macros are disabled, UNLESS you or your company have enabled them. If protected view 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 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.
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
Be very careful with email attachments. All of these emails use Social engineering 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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” 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.