Avoid installation of Agent Tesla via COVID-19 Part Time Employment email

Also Known As: Agent Tesla RAT
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

"COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus" removal guide

What is "COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus"?

There are many cases where cyber criminals attempt to take advantage of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis by sending people fraudulent emails. In this case they spread an email with a file attached to it which supposedly contains a list of employees who violated quarantine orders. Scammers encourage recipients to open the attached file and check if they are on that list. However, that file is designed to install Agent Tesla, a remote access tool (RAT) which is used as a tool to steal sensitive information. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that whoever received this email would leave its contents unopened.

COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus malware-spreading email spam campaign

According to this email, the attached file is a document proving that some of the employees are engaging in part-time jobs outside the company and by doing so they violate quarantine orders. It is stated that all those individuals will be penalized by terminating their employment without any exceptions. Recipients are encouraged to check the attached file and see if their names are on the list of employees who violated the employment contract. The attached file is malicious disc image (IMG) used to distribute the aforementioned RAT called Agent Tesla. This malicious software can log keystrokes, steal credentials from various browsers, messaging and email clients, VPN, FTP clients, system registry, capture screen, prevent victims from using Task Manager, Command Prompt and other operating system's features. In most cases cyber criminals attempt to trick users into installing malware like Agent Tesla so they could steal credit card details, various login credentials and other sensitive information that could be misused to steal identities, make fraudulent purchases, transactions, spread malware, spread spam, scam emails, and so on. Users who get tricked into installing programs like Agent Tesla can become victims of identity theft, experience serious online privacy issues, suffer monetary loss, lose access to personal accounts, etc. Therefore, it is strongly recommended not to open website links and/or attachments that are included in emails like this one. It is worthwhile to mention that most cyber criminals disguise their emails as important, official letters sent from legitimate companies.

Threat Summary:
Name Agent Tesla RAT
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax This email is disguised as a letter regarding misconduct.
Attachment(s) Document 13042020-245784672009856905957758598.img (its name may vary)
Detection Names Arcabit (Trojan.Generic.D2019E47), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.33660487), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/GenKryptik.EIIN), Kaspersky (Trojan-PSW.MSIL.Agensla.pej), 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 Agent Tesla 
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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More examples of email scams used to distribute malware are "DHL Relief Email Virus", "COVID-19 Stimulus Email Virus" and "COVID-19 Pandemic Email Virus". As a rule, such emails contain some website link that is designed to download malicious file, or some malicious attachment. Either way, emails of this type are being sent with a purpose to trick recipients into executing (opening) a file that is designed to install some malicious software. FormBook, TrickBot, LokiBot and Adwind are just a couple examples of programs that various cyber criminals attempt to spread via email.

How did "COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus" infect my computer?

At the time of the research cyber criminals were sending emails that contained an IMG (.img) file which, if executed, started Agent Tesla's installation process. However, they may be using other file formats to spread this RAT. For example, Microsoft Office, PDF documents, executable files (like .exe), JavaScript files, archive files like ZIP, RAR. Either way, none of the attached malicious files can install malware without being executed (opened). It is worthwhile to mention that when opened, malicious MS Office documents ask for a permission to enable editing/content (macros commands). By giving such permission users allow those documents to infect computers with malware. Although, this it applies to documents opened with MS Office 2010 and later. Older versions do not include "Protected View" mode and infect computers without asking any permissions.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Installed programs must be updated and activated through implemented tools and/or functions that are designed by official developers. Other (third party) tools should never be used, they can be designed to install malware. Besides, it is not legal to activate any licensed software with unofficial ('cracking) tools. Email contents should be opened only when there is no reason to believe that it may be unsafe. Attachments (and/or web links) in irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious email addresses should not be opened. Furthermore, all software should be downloaded from official pages and via direct links. Unofficial pages, third party downloaders, installers, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule) and other channels of this kind can be used as tools to host malicious files. And finally, it is recommended to regularly scan the operating system for threats and do that by using a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. If you've already opened "COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus" email letter:

Subject: Evidence Document Containing Staff Misconduct During This Period Of COVID-19 Pandemic 13-04-2020

 

Attached document dated 13th April 2020, has proved, confirmed and found that some  of our staff in different departments, are engaging in part time employment outside our company during this period of corona virus COVID-19 pandemic. Recently the Public Authority of Man Power has identified some such individuals and they will be penalized immediately. We all should understand that this is not just a violation of the employment contract, but also will lead to our company's reputation being damaged as well.

Our management will not tolerate such offenses and any of the individual that his or her name has been found in the attached evidence document found to be engaged in part time employment shall be terminated from work with immediate effect. He/ she whose name appeared in the attached evidence document, shall not be entitled for any claims from the company including indemnity settlement.

We insist all staffs to adhere to the company policies and abide by the country's  labor law without any exceptions. Engaging in part time activities is an offense, is prohibited to all company staffs and if found breached, will be dealt with strictly.

 

Best regards

 

Managing Director

Malicious attachment detected as a threat by multiple antivirus engines:

covid-19 part time employment email attachment detected as malicious in virustotal

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.

QR Code
Agent Tesla RAT QR code
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