Avoiding infecting your system via Christmas Party Email attachments

Also Known As: Christmas Party spam
Damage level: Severe

What is "Christmas Party Email"?

"Christmas Party Email" is a Christmas-themed spam campaign designed to spread Emotet Trojan-type malicious software. Through use of social engineering tactics, these emails are intended to trick users into opening the attached file, which will then in turn infect their systems with Emotet.

Christmas Party Email variant

There are several variants of the "Christmas Party Email". One message variation claims that the annual staff holiday luncheon is approaching and management is looking for volunteers. Apparently, help is needed with the gathering's theme, decorations, and so on.

The malicious attachment is disguised as a document listing the party address and invite list. Another variant called "Christmas Party next week" claims the attached file to be the menu for the Christmas party supposedly happening in the coming week. Users are instructed to review the list and inform the sender if they also intend to bring something.

Additionally, the message reminds recipients not to forget to bring monetary donations. It also asks them to wear their least attractive Christmas sweater, however, another variant has a different title/subject, but virtually identical text to the previously described message.

The "Christmas Party" email may have varied text content and/or titles, however, the purpose is identical: to infect users' devices with the Emotet Trojan via a dangerous attachment. The attachment is a Microsoft Office document, which, when opened, asks users to enable macro commands (i.e. enable editing).

If enabled, the infection process begins. Should suspicions arise that Emotet (or similar malware) has already infected the system, you are strongly advised to use anti-virus software to remove it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Christmas Party spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Email claims to concern an upcoming Christmas party.
Attachment(s) Microsoft Office document (various titles).
Detection Names (malicious document)
BitDefender (VB:Trojan.VBA.Downloader.UT), ESET-NOD32 (VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.QXF), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.MSOffice.SAgent.gen), DrWeb (Exploit.Siggen.50777), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal).
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Payload Emotet
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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"HARASSMENT COMPLAINT""Ministry of Justice""Transcoal Pacific" are some examples of other spam campaigns used to proliferate malware (e.g. Trojans, ransomware, etc.). Commonly, social engineering and scare tactics are employed to trick users into opening infectious files (or links leading to them).

The messages are typically disguised as "urgent", "important", "official", "priority", and so on. They can be holiday-themed, government and court mail, "amazing" prizes and award announcements, etc.

How did "Christmas Party Email" infect my computer?

Deceptive emails cause system infections via attached or linked files. Their formats can be varied and include Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive (ZIP, RAR) and executable (.exe, .run) files, JavaScript and others. When infectious files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process starts.

I.e., they begin downloading/installing malicious programs. For example, MS Office documents ask users to enable macro commands. Once this is done, the infection starts. The process begins automatically, when dangerous documents are opened with Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010.

How to avoid installation of malware

Never open suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those received from unknown senders (addresses). Never open attached files, or links leading to them, which are found in suspect/random mail. Opening infectious files will trigger them to start downloading/installing malicious software.

Use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. The newer releases have "Protected View" mode, which prevents malicious macros from automatically beginning to download/install malware when the document is opened. Content should be researched to verify its legitimacy, before download/installation.

Use only official and verified download channels. Untrusted download sources such as Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.), free file-hosting websites and third party downloaders are more likely to offer deceptive and/or bundled products. Therefore, such channels should be avoided.

Software should be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. Illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third party updaters are classified as high-risk, due to potential installation of malware. Have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up to date.

Furthermore, this software should be used to perform regular system scans and for removal of detected threats/issues. If you have already opened "Christmas Party Email" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in one "Christmas Party Email" message:

Subject: Christmas party.

Good Morning ************,

Our annual Holiday Luncheon for all staff is quickly approaching December 14th and we need volunteers to assist with a theme, decorating, and all other details needed.

Party address and invite list in attachment.

Second variant of "Christmas Party Email" message:


Text presented in this variant:

Subject: Christmas Party next week.

Hello ************


I have attached the menu for the Christmas Party next week. If you would like to bring something, look at the list and let me know.

Don't forget to get your donations in for the money three.

Also, wear tackiest/ugliest Christmas sweater to the party.

Third variant of "Christmas Party Email" message:


Text presented in this variant:

Subject: Christmas party.

Morning ************,

I have attached the menu for the Christmas Party next week. If you would like to bring something, look at the list and let me know.
Don't forget to get your donations in for the money tree.
Also, wear your tackiest/ugliest Christmas sweater to the party.

Details in the attachment.

Malicious attachment distributed via "Christmas Party Email" spam campaign:

Malicious attachment distributed through Christmas Party Email spam campaign

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Quick menu:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing Emails

Most commonly, cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick Internet users into giving away their sensitive private information, for example, login information for various online services, email accounts, or online banking information.

Such attacks are called phishing. In a phishing attack, cybercriminals usually send an email message with some popular service logo (for example, Microsoft, DHL, Amazon, Netflix), create urgency (wrong shipping address, expired password, etc.), and place a link which they hope their potential victims will click on.

After clicking the link presented in such email message, victims are redirected to a fake website that looks identical or extremely similar to the original one. Victims are then asked to enter their password, credit card details, or some other information that gets stolen by cybercriminals.

Email-virus icon Emails with Malicious Attachments

Another popular attack vector is email spam with malicious attachments that infect users' computers with malware. Malicious attachments usually carry trojans that are capable of stealing passwords, banking information, and other sensitive information.

In such attacks, cybercriminals' main goal is to trick their potential victims into opening an infected email attachment. To achieve this goal, email messages usually talk about recently received invoices, faxes, or voice messages.

If a potential victim falls for the lure and opens the attachment, their computers get infected, and cybercriminals can collect a lot of sensitive information.

While it's a more complicated method to steal personal information (spam filters and antivirus programs usually detect such attempts), if successful, cybercriminals can get a much wider array of data and can collect information for a long period of time.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

This is a type of phishing. In this case, users receive an email claiming that a cybercriminal could access the webcam of the potential victim and has a video recording of one's masturbation.

To get rid of the video, victims are asked to pay a ransom (usually using Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency). Nevertheless, all of these claims are false - users who receive such emails should ignore and delete them.

How to spot a malicious email?

While cyber criminals try to make their lure emails look trustworthy, here are some things that you should look for when trying to spot a phishing email:

  • Check the sender's ("from") email address: Hover your mouse over the "from" address and check if it's legitimate. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft, be sure to check if the email address is @microsoft.com and not something suspicious like @m1crosoft.com, @microsfot.com, @account-security-noreply.com, etc.
  • Check for generic greetings: If the greeting in the email is "Dear user", "Dear @youremail.com", "Dear valued customer", this should raise suspiciousness. Most commonly, companies call you by your name. Lack of this information could signal a phishing attempt.
  • Check the links in the email: Hover your mouse over the link presented in the email, if the link that appears seems suspicious, don't click it. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft and the link in the email shows that it will go to firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0... you shouldn't trust it. It's best not to click any links in the emails but to visit the company website that sent you the email in the first place.
  • Don't blindly trust email attachments: Most commonly, legitimate companies will ask you to log in to their website and to view any documents there; if you received an email with an attachment, it's a good idea to scan it with an antivirus application. Infected email attachments are a common attack vector used by cybercriminals.

To minimise the risk of opening phishing and malicious emails we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows

Example of a spam email:

Example of an email spam

What to do if you fell for an email scam?

  • If you clicked on a link in a phishing email and entered your password - be sure to change your password as soon as possible. Usually, cybercriminals collect stolen credentials and then sell them to other groups that use them for malicious purposes. If you change your password in a timely manner, there's a chance that criminals won't have enough time to do any damage.
  • If you entered your credit card information - contact your bank as soon as possible and explain the situation. There's a good chance that you will need to cancel your compromised credit card and get a new one.
  • If you see any signs of identity theft - you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission. This institution will collect information about your situation and create a personal recovery plan.
  • If you opened a malicious attachment - your computer is probably infected, you should scan it with a reputable antivirus application. For this purpose, we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
  • Help other Internet users - report phishing emails to Anti-Phishing Working Group, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Fraud Information Center and U.S. Department of Justice.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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