Prevent installation of LokiBot through attachments in PETRONAS emails

Also Known As: PETRONAS spam campaign
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

"PETRONAS Email Virus" removal guide

What is "PETRONAS Email Virus"?

PETRONAS is a spam campaign that cyber criminals spread to infect recipients' computers with LokiBot, a trojan-type malicious program. They send emails with attached archive files (RAR) that contain malicious executables. Cyber criminals behind the PETRONAS spam campaign attempt to trick people into executing the file, which then installs LokiBot. This program steals various personal, sensitive information. Therefore, do not to trust this email - ignore the message and delete it.

PETRONAS Email Virus

This spam campaign is disguised as an email from PETRONAS, a Malaysian oil and gas company, which has nothing to do with the message. Cyber criminals responsible for these spam campaigns use names of legitimate companies and/or existing people. In this case, recipients are encouraged to open and check the attached file (apparently a purchase order - PO) and send an invoice. This spam campaign contains two attachments: an MS Office document and an RAR archive file. The second file contains an executable file named "Admiresor.exe". If opened/executed, this file installs LokiBot, a malicious program that steals personal information by recording keystrokes (keys pressed) and gathering other sensitive details such as users' credentials (passwords, logins, and so on). In this way, the malware is used to steal various accounts that are misused to generate revenue by making fraudulent purchases and transactions, and performing other actions. Furthermore, stolen accounts could be used to trick other people into sending money, infecting their systems with similar (or other) malware, etc. In summary, LokiBot's victims are exposed to risk of identity theft, monetary loss, problems relating to browsing safety, privacy, and other serious issues. Therefore, PETRONAS or other similar spam campaigns cannot be trusted and files attached to them should remain unopened.

Threat Summary:
Name PETRONAS spam campaign
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax This email is disguised as a message regarding a 'purchase order' worth $230,000,000.
Attachment(s) MS Office document (.doc) and archive file (RAR), which contains the "Admiresor.exe" malicious file.
Detection Names (Admiresor.exe) Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.33042516), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Injector.EKKD), Kaspersky (Backdoor.Win32.Androm.tsvk), 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 LokiBot
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 include "WeTransfer Email Virus", "Coronavirus Email Virus" and "QuickBooks Email Virus". Cyber criminals send them to infect computers with various high-risk malware. For example, Emotet, TrickBot, Adwind, and other malicious software. Therefore, ignore these emails and do not open attached files or those downloaded through any included website links.

How did "PETRONAS Email Virus" infect my computer?

In this particular case, computers become infected with LokiBot only if recipients execute the "Admiresor.exe" (or another executable file) within the attached RAR archive. Other examples of files that cyber criminals use to proliferate malware via emails are Microsoft Office, PDF documents, other archive files such as ZIP, executable files (.exe), and JavaScript files. Typically, malicious attachments install malware on the operating system only when recipients open them. When recipients open malicious MS Office documents, they usually demand permission to enable macros commands (editing). If allowed, the documents install malicious software, however, this applies to documents that are opened with MS Office 2010 and later - older versions do not include Protected View mode and do not even ask permission to enable editing, thus infecting systems automatically.

How to avoid installation of malware

Do not open files or website links that are attached to irrelevant emails, especially if the emails are sent from unknown, suspicious addresses. All files and software should be downloaded from official websites and via direct links. Other sources, tools such as Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), unofficial pages, third party downloaders (and installers), freeware download sites, and so on are used to proliferate malicious software. Installed programs must be updated and activated only through implemented functions or tools provided by official developers. It is illegal to activate software through unofficial tools, and this can lead to installation of malware. Also, operating systems should be regularly scanned with a reputable anti-spyware or antivirus suite - remove detected threats immediately. If you have already opened "PETRONAS Email Virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "PETRONAS Email Virus" email message:

Subject: RE PETRONAS MALAYSIA PO # 02678 USD $ 230,000.00 PAYMENT
Dear Sir,

Please find attached PO with total amount of USD 230,000

When you will send us proforma invoice so we can arrange deposit ?

Your urgent response is highly appreciated.


Best regards,

White Nigga

PETRONAS SDN BHD
MALAYSIA

Malicious file ("Admiresor.exe") stored within the attachment distributed via "PETRONAS Email Virus" spam campaign:

Malicious attachment distributed through PETRONAS Email Virus spam campaign

Malicious "Admiresor.exe" process running in Task Manager:

admiresor.exe malicious process in task manager

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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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.

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PETRONAS spam campaign QR code
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