An email spoofing Microsoft Security Office with the subject of Urgent Info Regarding Your Bank Assets pretending to come from Benedict Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org> with a link to a malicious word doc delivers an unknown malware
Update: In the original set of emails the from: was Benedict Brown <random email address>. Second batch were Microsoft Security Office < random email address> Subsequent batches have both Benedict Brown and Microsoft Security Office in subject line.
From: Microsoft Security Office <email@example.com>
From: Benedict Brown / Microsoft Security Office <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Benedict Brown, Microsoft Security Office <email@example.com>
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.
Some subjects seen so far in this malspam run include:
- Blocking of Bank Accounts and Cards
- Urgent Info Regarding Your Bank Assets
- Your Banking Assets Are Blocked
- Crucial Information – Block
- Bank Assets Blocked
- Please Note – Urgent
- Critical Info – Assets Blocked
Microsoft have not been hacked or had their email or other servers compromised. They are not sending the emails to you.
The email looks like:
From: Benedict Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun 08/01/2017 20:25
Subject: Urgent Info Regarding Your Bank Assets
Attachment: link in email body to download word doc
It is Benedict Brown representing Microsoft Security Office. The primary
function of my Department is to control online activity of users, track
data packages exchange, and validate requests sent from user devices. We
are working on making Internet yet more secure and more productive. There
and then, we have to keep an eye on malicious software distributed on the
Internet, and stay on guard of the Network protecting it from any
suspicious operations. Also, we analyze bank transactions processed through
the online-banking facilities. Nowadays, most of malware is being engaged
in operations of this kind. My personal work function is to contact and
notify Internet users using their personal devices to process bank
transactions on the Internet through online accounts. That is why, I am
contacting you in such case. I am afraid there is an unwanted news. Our
automated systems have discovered suspicious requests and data packages
from your address when validating and processing operations made with your
checking accounts and cards.
What is that? Maybe your computer is infected with a virus or something
that exploits the device when processing banking operations. It may cause
truly bad consequences for your counteragents and even the security system
of the bank you are communicating with. Our office is contracting with most
banks all over the world, so we are entitled to follow security issues
pertaining to transactions and other actions performed toward banking
software and facilities. In your case, as I have mentioned, we have
discovered the flow of suspicious data. This is the topical security
problem that must be solved as soon as possible. That is why, we have to
temporarily block your checking accounts and cards attached to them. What
to do now? Surely, we care of your convenience and productivity. Thus, we
have prepared the full report for you containing all relevant information
concerning abovementioned suspicious data, and also the set of security
tips for further application in order to unblock your assets.
The report may be downloaded from our official server here:
Please look into it at the earliest possible time. This is crucial
information that may assist you. Unless, you will have your assets – cards
and checking accounts – permanently blocked in 5 days after informing you
by sending this letter. Our duty is to support you, so please follow the
recommendations in the file and defend your assets from malicious data and
Microsoft Security Office
Sites listed to be hosting the word doc included in body of email :
8 January 2017 : Microsoft.report.doc Current Virus total detections: Payload Security shows a download from www.endclothing.cu.cc/nn.exe which is renamed by the script to WwZzDSAfka.exe ( VirusTotal) it also contacts loads of other sites, but I can’t quite work out what it is doing. Update: I am informed that it downloads a neutrino bot which in turn downloads August password stealer amongst others. This VirusTotal report from a few days ago gives information in the comments section
Previous campaigns over the last few weeks have delivered numerous different download sites and malware versions. There are frequently 5 or 6 and even up to 150 download locations on some days, sometimes delivering the exactly same malware from all locations and sometimes slightly different malware versions. Dridex /Locky does update at frequent intervals during the day, sometimes as quickly as every hour, so you might get a different version of these nasty Ransomware or Banking password stealer Trojans.
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 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” 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.