Avoid malware spread via the fake U.S. Small Business Administration email

Also Known As: GuLoader malware / Remcos RAT
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

"U.S. Small Business Administration" email virus removal guide

What is the fake "U.S. Small Business Administration" email?

The "U.S. Small Business Administration" email is part of yet another spam campaign exploiting the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Supposedly from the US Small Business Administration (SBA), the emails are disguised as containing information regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Grants, and Small Business Debt Relief - as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) act. These emails are designed to target small business owners/representatives, possibly SBA applicants who had their personally identifiable information exposed. The messages have infectious files attached, which contain GuLoader malware. This, in turn, infects systems with the Remcos Remote Access Tool (RAT). When used for malicious purposes, this software is termed a 'Remote Access Trojan'.

U.S. Small Business Administration Email Virus malware-spreading email spam campaign

"U.S. Small Business Administration" spam campaigns were used to distribute several variants of the fake SBA emails. One variant, named "Small Business Grant/Testing Centre Vouchers" is presented as an application submission confirmation. It states that the application will be automatically submitted once all of the relevant documents are received. The message gives a deadline by which the necessary forms must be completed and faxed or emailed. Recipients are also asked to sign the attached form, indicated as "Request for Transcript of Tax Return/IRS Form 4506-T" (which are the genuine names of an existing IRS form). The signed form must then be submitted to the SBA website. Additionally, the email contains non-transferable vouchers that can be used at testing centers. Another variant, named "SBA Payroll Protection Program Status" allegedly contains documents pertaining to the SBA "Paycheck Protection Program". Recipients are instructed to print the documents, sign them (it is specified where the signatures are necessary), and then submit them via a document upload portal in their SBA account. It is stated that, following request approval, recipients must contact their bank to ensure successful enrolment in the program. These emails are bogus, though might coincide with genuine mail from the legitimate Small Business Administration. The attachments to these fraudulent messages are Universal Disk Format (UDF) image files, which contain GuLoader malware executable files (disguised as PDF documents). When opened, the attached files start installation of GuLoader, which in turn injects Remcos RAT into the system. This Trojan enables remote access and control over an infected device with notable features such as system/personal file management, audio/video recording through integrated or connected cameras/microphones, taking of screenshots, keylogging (i.e., recording of key strokes), browser history and stored username/password exfiltration, and so on. In summary, trusting these fake "U.S. Small Business Administration" emails can compromise device integrity and result in serious privacy issues, financial losses and identity theft. If GuLoader, Remcos, or other malicious software has already infiltrated the system, use anti-virus software to eliminate it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name GuLoader malware / Remcos RAT
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Emails disguised as mail from the U.S. Government Small Business Administration (SBA), concerning the CARES act programs.
Attachment(s) SBA_Disaster_Application_Confirmation_Documt.img
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.33559599), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Injector.ELFD), Kaspersky (Backdoor.Win32.Remcos.ntu), 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 Remcos via GuLoader
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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Deceptive/Scam emails are delivered using spam campaigns. The term "spam campaign" describes a large scale operation during which such messages are sent by the thousand. They are usually presented as "official", "important", "urgent", "priority" and so on. The emails might also be disguised as mail from legitimate organizations, institutions, companies, businesses, service provides, etc. "Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19", "COVID-19 Part Time Employment", and "COVID 19 HELP DESK" are some examples of other spam campaigns used to proliferate malware, however, distribution of malicious content is not the only purpose of this type of mail. It can be used for phishing purposes as well. To elaborate, the emails can have varied disguises to trick users into providing their personal information (e.g. names, addresses, emails, telephone numbers, banking account and credit card details, etc.) and/or to make bogus monetary transactions. To summarize, while they employ different tactics, scam messages have just one purpose: to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them.

How did "U.S. Small Business Administration Email Virus" infect my computer?

Systems are infected through malicious files sent via spam campaigns. These files can be attached to the emails or linked inside (i.e., download links). Infectious files can be in various formats such as Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive (ZIP, RAR, etc.) and executable (.exe, .run, etc.) files, JavaScript and so on. When they are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection processes are triggered (i.e. malware download/installation). For example, Microsoft Office documents request macro commands to be enabled (i.e., to enable editing/content). The the infection process starts only after this request is carried out, however, the process begins automatically upon the dangerous document being opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010.

How to avoid installation of malware

To avoid infections spread through spam campaigns, you are advised against opening suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those sent by unknown/suspect senders (addresses). Do not open attachments or links found in dubious mail, as doing so can result in high-risk infection. Additionally, it is important to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. These versions have "Protected View" mode, which stops malicious documents from executing macro commands when they are opened. Other common malware proliferation methods include untrusted download channels, illegal activation ("cracking") tools and bogus updaters. Therefore, use official and verified download sources and activate and update products with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device/user safety, have reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed and kept up to date. Furthermore, this software should be used to run regular systems scans and to eliminate all detected threats and issues. If you have already opened "U.S. Small Business Administration Email Virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in one variant of the "U.S. Small Business Administration" scam email:

Subject: Small Business Grant/Testing Centre Vouchers


Application Submission Confirmation


Application number 2000256552 is complete, and will be automatically submitted once all supporting documents are received.
Please endeavour to complete the small business disaster assistance grant and fax or email completed form before 25th March, 2020.


Please sign attached completed Request for Transcript of Tax Return (IRS Form 4506-T) and upload on the SBA website.


Vouchers to be used at testing centres is also attached. Note that vouchers are non-transferable.


U.S. Small Business Administration | 409 3rd St, SW. Washington DC 20416

 Screenshot of another "U.S. Small Business Administration" scam email variant:

U.S. Small Business Administration Email Virus another variant

Text presented in this variant:

Subject: SBA Payroll Protection Program Status




Here are the documents we need you to sign for the Paycheck Protection Program from the SBA.
Please print them out, sign and submit them via the document upload portal in your SBA account.
There is a place to sign on the Promissory Note, the third page of the Beneficial Ownership Form and on the Paycheck Protection Program disclosure.
Please be sure to contact your bank after approval to verify successful enrolment.


U.S. Small Business Administration | 409 3rd St, SW. Washington DC 20416

Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via the "U.S. Small Business Administration" spam campaign:

Malicious attachment detection on VirusTotal

Another variant of "U.S. Small Business Administration" scam email:

U.S. Small Business Administration scam email

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

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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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