Do not open contents of the "COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000" email scam

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Medium

"COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000 Email Scam" removal guide

What is the "COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000" email scam"?

The number of fake emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) organization and claiming to share information regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) is growing daily. Scammers behind this phishing email attempt to trick recipients into clicking a website link supposedly designed to open a website allowing them to track COVID-19 cases. At the time of research, the link opened a fake Microsoft Outlook login page, which scammers use to trick recipients into entering their login credentials.

COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000 Email Scam email spam campaign

This fake CDC email has nothing to do with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention organization. Cyber criminals commonly disguise their emails as official and important using the names of well-known, legitimate companies, organizations or other parties. As mentioned, at the time of research, a link within this email opened a fake Outlook login page. Scammers/cyber criminals behind this email attempt to trick recipients into entering their credentials, and then steal their Outlook accounts. It is possible that they could hijack other accounts as well, since users often use an identical password for multiple accounts. With access to users' Outlook accounts, cyber criminals can spread this scam further or spread other scams, send emails to people with malicious attachments (or website links designed to download malicious files), access emails that might contain sensitive information, etc. Therefore, scammers might attempt to infect other computers with malicious programs such as ransomware, Trojans, or other malware. Also, steal users' identities, access details (such as credentials of banking-related and other accounts), which could be misused to generate revenue. Therefore, you are strongly advised not to open attachments or click links in these emails. Note that when credentials are entered into the fake Outlook login, the web page opens a fake World map showing countries with COVID-19 cases. Cyber criminals behind this scam might also modify it and send emails with a different link.

Threat Summary:
Name COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000 Email Scam.
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.
Fake Claim Scammers claim that this email is related to COVID-19
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Some more examples of other spam campaigns include "Infect Your Family With CoronaVirus", "Arabitol GLOBAL TRADING" and "I Know A Lot More Things About You". In most cases, scammers behind these emails try to trick recipients into providing private information, sending ransom payments for compromising videos/photos (that do not exist), and so on. They send these emails to many people and hope that someone will fall for the scam. Therefore, always ignore these emails. Furthermore, they might also contain website links designed to download malicious files or attachments designed to install malware (e.g., Emotet, TrickBot, LokiBot).

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Operating systems become infected through spam campaigns when recipients open files downloaded through website links, or they open malicious attachments. Cyber criminals send emails that contain attached malicious Microsoft Office documents, PDF documents, JavaScript files, executable files (.exe) and archive files such as ZIP, RAR. The files infect systems when recipients open/execute. Note, however, that Microsoft Office documents infect systems only if users enable editing/macros commands. MS Office 2010 and later versions include Protected View mode, which prevents malicious documents from installing malware on computers. Older versions do not include this feature and, thus, malicious documents opened with them cause installation of malware without asking any permissions.

How to avoid installation of malware

Do not to open attachments or website links in emails without being sure that it is safe, especially if the emails are received from unknown, suspicious addresses, and/or are irrelevant. Commonly, scammers disguise such emails as important/official, use names of well-known people, companies, etc. All software should be downloaded using direct links and from official websites. Channels such as third party downloaders, unofficial pages, Peer-to-Peer networks, etc., often are used to proliferate malicious files, programs. It is not safe to use third party installers. Furthermore, installed software must be updated and activated with tools and implemented functions provided by official software developers. It is illegal to activate licensed software with various software 'cracking' tools. Keep your computer safe by regularly scanning it for threats with reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. If you have already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000 Email Scam" email message:

Subject: HIGH ALERT: COVID-19 cases surpassed 300,000 globally

Distributed via the CDC Health Alert Network
March 24, 2020
WHO-CDCHAN-00426

Update list of new cases around your city are available at ( hxxps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/locations-confirmed-cases.html )

You are immediately advised to go through the cases above to avoid potential hazards.

Sincerely,
Department of Health
National Contact Center
National Center for Health Marketing
Division of eHealth Marketing
Centers for Disease control Prevention

Screenshot of a fake Outlook login page:

fake outlook login website

Screenshot of a fake World map showing countries with COVID-19 cases, which is opened after entering credentials in the fake Outlook page:

scam page that gets opened via fake outlook login website

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:
▼ DOWNLOAD Malwarebytes By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

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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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