Avoiding infecting your system via Christmas Party Email attachments

Also Known As: Christmas Party email spam virus
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

"Christmas Party Email" virus removal guide

What is "Christmas Party Email"?

"Christmas Party Email" is a Christmas-themed spam campaign, designed to spread the 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 letter variation claims that the annual staff holiday luncheon is approaching and presumably, management is looking for volunteers. The aid is needed to help 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 titled "Christmas Party next week" claims the attached file to be the menu for the Christmas party occurring the upcoming week. Users are told to review the list and inform the sender, if they also intend to bring something. Additionally, the letter reminds recipients not to forget to bring monetary donations. It also requests them to wear their least attractive Christmas sweater. Yet another variant has a different title/subject, but an almost identical text to the previously described letter. The "Christmas Party" email may have varied written content and/or titles, however the purpose is the same - to infect users' devices with the Emotet trojan via virulent attachment. The attachment is a Microsoft Office document, which when opened requests 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, it is highly recommended to use an anti-virus software to immediately remove it.

Threat Summary:
Name Christmas Party email spam virus
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 Malwarebytes.
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"HARASSMENT COMPLAINT""Ministry of Justice""Transcoal Pacific" are a few 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 letters are typically disguised as "urgent", "important", "official", "priority" and so on. They can be holiday-themed, government and court mail, ludicrous prize 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 various, such as: 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 - it initiates the infection process. In other words, they begin downloading/installing malicious programs. For example, MS Office documents request users to enable macro commands, once this is done - the infection starts. This process begins automatically, when virulent documents are opened with Microsoft Office versions released prior to year 2010.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is highly recommended to never open suspicious and/or irrelevant emails, especially ones received from unknown senders (addresses). All attached files (or links leading to them) found in suspect/random mail - must never be opened. Opening infectious files - will trigger them to start downloading/installing malicious software. Users are encouraged to use Microsoft Office versions released after year 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 always be researched to verify its legitimacy, before download/installation. Only official and verified download channels should be used. Untrustworthy download sources like: 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 are advised against use. Software should be activated and updated with tools/functions, provided by legitimate developers. Illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third party updaters are deemed to be high-risk, due to potential installation of malware. It is paramount to 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 removal of detected threats/issues. If you've already opened "Christmas Party Email" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in one "Christmas Party Email" letter:

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" letter:

alt

Text presented in this variant:

Subject: Christmas Party next week.

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

#HAPPYHOLIDAYS

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" letter:

alt

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

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Quick menu:

How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Malwarebytes for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

 

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs. These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Malwarebytes for Windows.

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.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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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.

QR Code
Christmas Party email spam virus QR code
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