Avoid installing malware spread via the "UNICEF COVID-19 TIPS APP" email

Also Known As: Netwire virus
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

"UNICEF" email virus removal guide

What is the "UNICEF" email virus?

"UNICEF" is a deceptive email (subject: "UNICEF COVID-19 TIPS APP") designed to spread the Netwire Remote Access Trojan (RAT). This scam message abuses the current social climate (at time of writing, the coranavirus pandemic) to trick recipients into opening its malicious attachment. The attached file supposedly contains a presentation and Advanced Practice Provider tips, however, installing this file will infect the system with the Netwire RAT.

UNICEF email virus malware-spreading email spam campaign

The text presented in the "UNICEF COVID-19 TIPS APP" email states that it has attached a file, which is the presentation and APP concerning the Corona virus. In this context, the abbreviation relates to two different terms and serves two purposes. In healthcare terms, "APP" is "Advanced Practice Provider", which is inline with the aim of the scam, especially since the infectious attachment is disguised as an Excel document (which is within the archived file). The statement in the message encourages users to download and install an attached file, and hence the APP abbreviation can be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as "Application". This interpretation is furthered, as it is claims that the "APP" is updated daily (though the last word is misspelled and the message also contains other errors). Therefore, the scam's chances of success are potentially increased by users who are influenced by the message. The email states that the information will aid recipients to protect themselves and their staff respectively. It also requests that users share the email - in this way, they will unintentionally spread the Netwire Trojan. This malware is designed to give the cyber criminals behind the "UNICEF" scam email remote access and control over devices. Keylogging is a particularly dangerous capability of Netwire - it can record all information typed by individuals using the infected device. Therefore, it can steal the credentials (log-ins and passwords) of emails, social media and social networking, communication, e-commerce, banking and countless other accounts. To summarize, the Netwire RAT can cause financial loss, severe privacy issues and identity theft. Do not trust the "UNICEF" email scam. If you suspect that Netwire (or other malware) is already present on the system, use anti-virus software to remove it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Netwire virus
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Emails claims to be from UNICEF, containing important information concerning the coronavirus.
Attachment(s) UNICEF COVID-19 APP.arj containing UNICEF COVID-19 APP.exe
Detection Names Avast (Script:SNH-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (AIT:Trojan.Nymeria.2436), Emsisoft (AIT:Trojan.Nymeria.2436 (B)), Kaspersky (UDS:DangerousObject.Multi.Generic), 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 Netwire RAT
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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Deceptive/scam emails are sent by the thousand during operations called "spam campaigns". This mail is usually disguised as "official", "important", "priority" and similar. It can even incorporate the names of legitimate organizations, companies, services and similar (e.g. UNICEF). The purpose of these message is to generate revenue for the individuals behind them. This can be done through proliferation of malware (e.g. trojans, ransomware, cryptominers and so on), however, they can carry out their purpose using other techniques. For example, these emails can attempt to steal recipients' personal information via phishing websites, or trick them into making monetary transactions (e.g. fake shipping, subscription, registration fees and other fraudulent payments), and the use of many other tactics. "COVID-19 Insurance Plan From CIGNA", "WeTransfer", "Adobe Document Cloud E-Signing", and "Secret Love" are some examples of other email scams designed to proliferate malicious software.

How did "UNICEF email virus" infect my computer?

Infections originate from the dangerous files attached to, or linked inside, deceptive/scam emails. These files can be in various formats such as archive (ZIP, RAR, ARJ, etc.) and executable (.exe, .run, etc.) files, Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript and others. When infectious files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process starts (i.e., download/installation of malware). For example, MS Office documents infect systems when macro commands are enabled (i.e., editing is enabled). This process starts automatically when a malicious Microsoft Office document is opened in MS Office versions released prior to 2010.

How to avoid installation of malware

Suspicious or irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially those received from unknown/suspicious senders (addresses). Any attachments or links present in such mail must not be opened, as doing so can result in high-risk infection. Since malicious Microsoft Office documents opened in Microsoft Office programs released before 2010 immediately start the infection process, it is important to use newer versions (these have "Protected View" mode, which asks users to enable macro commands, and thus malware download/installation is not triggered when the document is opened). Malicious content also proliferates through untrusted download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fake updaters. Therefore, use official and verified download sources, and activate and update software with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device/user safety, have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up to date. Furthermore, use this software for regular system scans and removal of detected/potential threats. If you have already opened "UNICEF email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "UNICEF email virus" email message:

Subject: UNICEF COVID-19 TIPS APP

 

Find attached presentation & APP regarding COVID-19 for your reference and dissemination. kindly download and install on your system for dearly update and guide line on how to protect your self and staff  from this current deadly virus

 

Kindly pass it on, Let join hand together and fight this virus to the last.

 

Thanks
1-760-597-2966 ext 135

Jennifer Deheer
 UNICEF Inc

Screenshot of the malicious attachment ("UNICEF COVID-19 APP.arj" - this contains "UNICEF COVID-19 APP.exe", which installs Netwire) detection on VirusTotal:

Malicious attachment distributed through UNICEF email virus 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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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.

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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.

QR Code
Netwire virus QR code
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