What is "ProtonMail email scam"?
"ProtonMail email scam" refers to a spam campaign designed to hijack users' ProtonMail mail accounts. These messages claim that the recipient's email account has been suspended due to unspecified and unresolved errors, hence they risk losing access and suffering data deletion.
The scam urges people to address the issues immediately, however, the link presented in the email leads to a phishing website. Attempting to log-in through this site will reveal usernames and passwords to the scammers, thereby allowing them to gain access to the exposed ProtonMail accounts.
"ProtonMail email scam" overview
The email named "ProtonMail Account Location Is Not Secured" informs recipients that their ProtonMail accounts have been disabled from sending/receiving emails, due to failure on their part to resolve miscellaneous errors. Therefore, if they are not addressed immediately, users supposedly risk having access to their accounts denied.
Additionally, the inbox will be wiped and all received and sent messages, drafts and spam messages will be deleted. To avoid having the account disconnected from the ProtonMail database, the email informs recipients to follow the instructions provided.
The message does not contain any steps to fix the supposed problems, however, instructions can apparently be accessed via the "Resolve Now" button presented in the email. When pressed, users are redirected to a fake ProtonMail login web page. Despite its similarity to the legitimate website, this is a phishing site.
Any attempts to access ProtonMail through this fraudulent web page are unsuccessful, since its only purpose is to deliver entered account credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords) to the scammers. Note that risks posed by trusting this phishing scam are not limited to loss of email accounts.
Email accounts are commonly connected with social networking, social media, e-commerce (web store), financial and various other accounts. Therefore, through stolen emails, hijackers can gain access and control over associated accounts.
To summarize, the information provided by these scam ProtonMail messages is false and in no way connected to the legitimate email service provider. Trusting this scheme can result in financial loss, serious privacy issues and identity theft.
If you have already attempted logging-in through the phishing website, you are strongly advised to immediately change the compromised ProtonMail account password and similarly secure accounts tied to it. Further recommendations include contacting the support of any potentially affected accounts.
|Name||ProtonMail Email Scam|
|Threat Type||Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.|
|Fake Claim||Scam claims that recipients' ProtonMail email accounts have unresolved errors.|
|Serving IP Address||126.96.36.199|
|Disguise||Scam is presented as mail from ProtonMail support.|
|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)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
Spam campaigns in general
The term "spam campaign" is used to define a large scale operation, during which thousands of scam emails are sent. These messages are usually presented as "official", "priority", "important" and similar. They might be disguised as mail from legitimate organizations, institutions, companies, service providers, and so on.
"Roundcube Email Scam", "Last Warning: Upgrade your email to avoid Shutting Down", and "Email Credentials Phishing" are some examples of phishing messages akin to the "ProtonMail email scam". Another popular model is sextortion, by which scammers claim to have obtained compromising material of the recipient and threaten publication, unless a certain sum is paid.
For example, "I KNOW YOU OPENED MY LAST MAIL", "I infected your computer with my private trojan", etc. Due to increased Coronavirus/COVID-19 concerns, hundreds of spam campaigns exploiting the pandemic have been been launched.
"COVID-19 pandemic is straining health systems worldwide", "COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000", and "Infect Your Family With CoronaVirus" are just some examples. Scam models used in spam campaigns are varied.
"AOL Winner", "eBay Email Scam", "Critical Microsoft Windows Update!", and "TOYOTA LOTTERY ORGANIZATION" are some more examples of such rogue mail. Regardless of the claims, request and demands these message make, the purpose is the same: to generate profit for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them.
How do spam campaigns infect computers?
When these files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process starts (i.e., download/installation of malicious programs).
For example, once opened, Microsoft Office documents ask users to enable macro commands (i.e., to enable editing/content) - only if they are enabled does the infection processes begin. In Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010, however, macro commands are executed immediately when a document is opened (and so is download/installation of malware).
How to avoid installation of malware
Do not open suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those with any attachments or links present within them, as this can result in a system infection. Additionally, use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. These have "Protected View" mode, which prevents malicious macros from being executed when an infectious document is opened.
Other common malware proliferation methods are via untrusted download channels (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 only official and verified download sources.
Furthermore, all products should be activated and updated with functions/tools provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device and user safety, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed.
This software must be kept up to date, used to run regular system scans and to remove all detected/potential threats. If you have already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.
Text presented in the "ProtonMail email scam" email message:
Title/Subject: Protonmail Account Location Is Not Secured
Dear Protonmail user,
Your account ***@protonmail.com will be disconnected from sending and receiving mails from other users. Because you failed to resolve errors on your mail.
Note: All mails in your inbox, spam, draft, and sent items would be deleted, and access to your account would be denied.
You need to resolve the errors or your account will e disconnected from our database,
Follow the instruction below to resolve now
We are always looking to improve your online experience and security.
This message was sent from an unmonitored e-mail address. Please do not reply to this message.
Screenshot of the fake ProtonMail log-in website used for phishing account credentials:
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT 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:
- What is ProtonMail spam?
- Types of malicious emails.
- How to spot a malicious email?
- What to do if you fell for an email scam?
Types of malicious emails:
Most commonly, cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick Internet users into giving away their sensitive private information, for example, login information for various online services, email accounts, or online banking information.
Such attacks are called phishing. In a phishing attack, cybercriminals usually send an email message with some popular service logo (for example, Microsoft, DHL, Amazon, Netflix), create urgency (wrong shipping address, expired password, etc.), and place a link which they hope their potential victims will click on.
After clicking the link presented in such email message, victims are redirected to a fake website that looks identical or extremely similar to the original one. Victims are then asked to enter their password, credit card details, or some other information that gets stolen by cybercriminals.
Emails with Malicious Attachments
Another popular attack vector is email spam with malicious attachments that infect users' computers with malware. Malicious attachments usually carry trojans that are capable of stealing passwords, banking information, and other sensitive information.
In such attacks, cybercriminals' main goal is to trick their potential victims into opening an infected email attachment. To achieve this goal, email messages usually talk about recently received invoices, faxes, or voice messages.
If a potential victim falls for the lure and opens the attachment, their computers get infected, and cybercriminals can collect a lot of sensitive information.
While it's a more complicated method to steal personal information (spam filters and antivirus programs usually detect such attempts), if successful, cybercriminals can get a much wider array of data and can collect information for a long period of time.
This is a type of phishing. In this case, users receive an email claiming that a cybercriminal could access the webcam of the potential victim and has a video recording of one's masturbation.
To get rid of the video, victims are asked to pay a ransom (usually using Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency). Nevertheless, all of these claims are false - users who receive such emails should ignore and delete them.
How to spot a malicious email?
While cyber criminals try to make their lure emails look trustworthy, here are some things that you should look for when trying to spot a phishing email:
- Check the sender's ("from") email address: Hover your mouse over the "from" address and check if it's legitimate. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft, be sure to check if the email address is @microsoft.com and not something suspicious like @m1crosoft.com, @microsfot.com, @account-security-noreply.com, etc.
- Check for generic greetings: If the greeting in the email is "Dear user", "Dear @youremail.com", "Dear valued customer", this should raise suspiciousness. Most commonly, companies call you by your name. Lack of this information could signal a phishing attempt.
- Check the links in the email: Hover your mouse over the link presented in the email, if the link that appears seems suspicious, don't click it. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft and the link in the email shows that it will go to firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0... you shouldn't trust it. It's best not to click any links in the emails but to visit the company website that sent you the email in the first place.
- Don't blindly trust email attachments: Most commonly, legitimate companies will ask you to log in to their website and to view any documents there; if you received an email with an attachment, it's a good idea to scan it with an antivirus application. Infected email attachments are a common attack vector used by cybercriminals.
To minimise the risk of opening phishing and malicious emails we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
Example of a spam email:
What to do if you fell for an email scam?
- If you clicked on a link in a phishing email and entered your password - be sure to change your password as soon as possible. Usually, cybercriminals collect stolen credentials and then sell them to other groups that use them for malicious purposes. If you change your password in a timely manner, there's a chance that criminals won't have enough time to do any damage.
- If you entered your credit card information - contact your bank as soon as possible and explain the situation. There's a good chance that you will need to cancel your compromised credit card and get a new one.
- If you see any signs of identity theft - you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission. This institution will collect information about your situation and create a personal recovery plan.
- If you opened a malicious attachment - your computer is probably infected, you should scan it with a reputable antivirus application. For this purpose, we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
- Help other Internet users - report phishing emails to Anti-Phishing Working Group, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Fraud Information Center and U.S. Department of Justice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why did I receive this email?
Cyber criminals distribute spam emails in mass-scale operations - hence, thousands of users receive identical ones.
I have provided my personal information when tricked by a spam email, what should I do?
If you have disclosed account credentials - immediately change the passwords of all possibly compromised accounts and inform their official support. And if you have revealed other private information (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - contact the relevant authorities without delay.
I have read a spam email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?
No, simply reading a spam email will not jumpstart any system infection processes. Malware download/installation is initiated when the attachments or links found in this mail - are clicked/opened.
I have downloaded and opened a file attached to a spam email, is my computer infected?
If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) - most likely, yes - your system was infected. However, you might have avoided triggering an infection if it was a document (.doc, .xls, .pdf, etc.). These formats may require additional user interaction (e.g., enabling macro commands) to begin downloading/installing malware.
Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?
Yes, Combo Cleaner is designed to detect malware and other harmful content. It can eliminate almost all known malware infections. It must be emphasized that performing a complete system scan is crucial - since sophisticated malicious software usually hides deep within systems.