Prevent installation of the Emotet through Greta Thunberg email scam

Also Known As: Greta Thunberg spam
Damage level: Severe

What is "Greta Thunberg Email Virus"?

This spam campaign is disguised as an invitation to "the biggest climate protest". Cyber criminals behind it seek to trick recipients into opening the attached document or website link, and then installing Emotet. Note that Emotet is a malicious program categorized as Trojan.

It is designed to steal sensitive information. We strongly recommend that you ignore this email. Do not click the included link or open the attached file (document).

Greta Thunberg Email Virus

Recipients are encouraged to support Greta Thunberg by joining a climate protest. They are also encouraged to forward this message to all colleagues, friends and relatives. The scam states that details regarding time and date of the protest are provided in the attached document (or a website).

Cyber criminals behind this spam campaign proliferate templates in different languages - they send emails in English, Spanish, German and French. Some people have also received this email in Japanese. In any case, their main goal is to infect systems with Emotet.

For this to happen, recipients must open the attached Microsoft Office (or other) document, and then enable editing and content by opening or executing a file, which is downloaded through the included link. Emotet is a Trojan, which steals sensitive information.

For example, logins, passwords, details relating to browsing activity, and other data. It can also be used to proliferate other malware.

I.e., to infect systems with other malicious software (e.g., ransomware). In any case, having a computer infected with Emotet could lead to identity theft, financial, data loss, problems with browsing safety, online privacy, and other serious issues. In this particular case, it can be avoided by not opening the website link or attachment that is included in the email.

Threat Summary:
Name Greta Thunberg spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax This email is disguised as an invitation to the biggest climate protest.
Attachment(s) Support Greta Thunberg - Time Person of the Year 2019.doc (its name may vary).
Detection Names Avira (W97M/Agent.39307107), BitDefender (W97m.Downloader.ITD), ESET-NOD32 (VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.QXY), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.MSOffice.SAgent.gen), 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)

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Other examples of similar spam campaigns, and malicious programs proliferated through them, are "Christmas Party Email", "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT", "Ministry of Justice", and Nymeria, FormBook, Adwind, and TrickBot. Generally, these emails are disguised as legitimate, official, important, and so on.

Cyber criminals send them to trick recipients into infecting their systems with high-risk malware to generate revenue in various ways.

How did "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" infect my computer?

In this case, cyber criminals proliferate Emotet through a malicious Microsoft Office document or website link that downloads a malicious file. They seek to trick people into opening the document and giving it permission to enable editing and content. Once this is done, the document installs Emotet.

They could also use other MS Office documents or archive files (such as ZIP, RAR), executable files (.exe), JavaScript files, and PDF documents.

Note that computers can become infected only if the recipient opens the malicious file. MS Office 2010 and later versions demand permission to enable editing and content (i.e., they open documents in Protected View mode) - previous versions do not have this protection and thus automatically allow malicious documents to infect systems with malware.

How to avoid installation of malware

Never open files that are attached to suspicious, irrelevant emails - especially if they are received from unknown addresses. The same applies to website links. These emails are often disguised as important, official, and so on. Software and files should be downloaded only from official websites and via direct links.

Do not trust other channels/tools such as third party downloaders, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), unofficial pages, etc. Installed software should not be updated using unofficial, fake updating tools. The only proper and safe way to update programs is using tools or implemented functions provided by official software developers.

Licensed/paid software should not be activated using unofficial activation/'cracking' tools. These are often designed to infect systems with malicious software. Furthermore, it is illegal to activate licensed software with tools designed by third parties. Keep systems safe by regularly scanning them with reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software.

Remove detected threats as soon possible. If you have already opened "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" email message (English version):

Subject: Support Greta Thunberg - Time Person of the Year 2019


You can spend Christmas Eve looking for gifts for children. They will tell you Thank you only that day.
But the children will thank you all their lives if you come out for the biggest demonstration in the protest against the inaction of the government in connection with the climate crisis.
Support Greta Thunberg - Time Person of the Year 2019

I invite you. Time and address are attached in the attached file.

FORWARD this letter to all colleagues, friends and relatives RIGHT NOW, until you forget!

Many thanks.

Screenshot of "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" variant in Spanish:

greta thunberg email virus spanish variant

Text in this version:

Subject: Apoye a Greta Thunberg - Persona de tiempo del año


Puedes pasar la Nochebuena buscando regalos para niños. Te dirán Gracias solo ese día.
Pero los niños te lo agradecerán toda su vida si vienes a la manifestación más grande en protesta por la inacción del gobierno en relación con la crisis climática.
Apoye a Greta Thunberg - Persona de tiempo del año 2019

Te invito. La hora y la dirección se adjuntan en el archivo adjunto.

¡ENVÍE esta carta a todos sus colegas, amigos y familiares AHORA MISMO, hasta que se olvide!

Muchas gracias.

Screenshot of "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" variant in German:

greta thunberg email virus german variant

Text in this version:

Subject: Unterstützen Sie Greta Thunberg - Zeitmensch des Jahres 2019


Sie können Heiligabend auf der Suche nach Geschenken für Kinder verbringen. Sie werden dir nur an diesem Tag danken.
Aber die Kinder werden Ihnen ihr ganzes Leben lang danken, wenn Sie sich für die großte Demonstration gegen die Untätigkeit Unterstützen Sie Greta Thunberg - Zeitmensch des Jahres 2019

Ich lade Sie ein. Zeit und Adresse sind in der angehängten Datei angefügt.

Leiten Sie diesen Brief an alle Kollegen, Freunde und Verwandten weiter, bis Sie ihn vergessen!

Danke vielmals.

Malicious attachment distributed via "Greta Thunberg Email Virus" spam campaign:

Malicious attachment distributed through Greta Thunberg Email Virus spam campaign

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner 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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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.

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.

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