Do not trust the "Tokyo Olympics 2020" scam emails

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

"Tokyo Olympics 2020" email scam removal guide

What are the "Tokyo Olympics 2020" emails?

"Tokyo Olympics 2020" is a phishing email spam campaign. These deceptive letters supposedly contain information, provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), concerning the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and potential changes due to the ongoing pandemic. This spam campaign is yet another example of scammers incorporating Coronavirus/COVID-19 into their schemes. The "Tokyo Olympics 2020" emails are designed to trick recipients into providing their personal information, e.g. email account log-in credentials.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 email spam campaign

There are several variants of the "Tokyo Olympics 2020" emails. The researched variants were practically identical, the key differences between them being the phishing website that they promote. The emails, titled "Tokyo 2020 Information Letters for Federation/COVID-19 pandemic update" state that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released new information about the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This information is specified as letters sent via Dropbox file hosting service. The IOC is keeping track of the latest developments in the world, the letters allegedly address concerns and updates in relation to the the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Both variants of these emails contain links, leading to different websites. The links are disguised as URLs of the official IOC website (olympic.org). However, neither the sites these emails promote nor the emails themselves are legitimate. The webpages are designed for phishing purposes. One of said sites specifically requests users to log-in to their email account - in order to access the page. Any log-in information (i.e. passwords) typed into the fields presented in these webpages - will be promptly delivered to the scammers. Therefore, the email accounts can be stolen and that can lead to a variety of serious issues. Mail accounts are particularly sensitive as they are usually connected/associated to various other accounts, such as: social networking, social media, e-commerce, online money transfer, banking, etc. Hijacked social/communication accounts are typically used to ask for loans from contacts/friends and/or to proliferate malware by sharing infectious files - under the guise of the genuine owner. E-commerce accounts can be misused by criminals to make online purchases and/or to extract credit card details and similar banking information. Stolen financial/banking accounts can be used in a similar manner, as well as to make fraudulent transactions directly from them. To summarize, trusting these "Tokyo Olympics 2020" emails can lead to severe privacy issues, financial losses and identity theft. If attempts to log-in through these phishing websites have already been made, it is strongly advised to immediately change the email account's credentials and those of any associated accounts. Further recommendations include contacting official support of all potentially compromised accounts.

Threat Summary:
Name Tokyo Olympics 2020 Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Emails claim to contain important information concerning the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Disguise Emails are disguised as mail from the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
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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Deceptive/Scam emails are sent by the thousand in large scale operations called "spam campaigns". The letters are usually presented as "important", "official", "urgent" and so on; they may even be disguised as mail from genuine organizations, institutions, companies, businesses, service providers, etc. "Your Google Ads account has been suspended", "ProtonMail email scam", "Last Warning: Upgrade your email to avoid Shutting Down" are a few examples of other phishing emails. Due to increased concerns over Coronavirus/COVID-19, there have been many pandemic-themed spam campaigns, e.g. "U.S Department of Labor", "COVID-19 Part Time Employment", "COVID-19 test" etc. Spam campaigns are not used exclusively for phishing, other scams are also common. What is more, deceptive emails can be used to distribute trojans, ransomware and other malware.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are infected through malicious files sent through spam campaigns. These files can be attached to the emails or alternatively, the letters can contain links to download pages of infectious content. Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g. archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run), Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, etc. Once these files are opened - the infection process begins (i.e. malware download/installation is initiated). For example, MS Office document cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. In Microsoft Office versions released after 2010, users are asked to enable macros (i.e. to enable editing/content) and malware download/installation is triggered only after they are enabled. However, previous versions do not have "Protected View" mode, hence macro commands are automatically executed the moment a document is opened.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and/or irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any attachments or links found in such - as doing so can lead to a high-risk infection. Additionally, it is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. Spam campaigns are not the only popular malware distribution method, others include - dubious download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updates. Therefore, it is advised to always use official/trustworthy download sources, activate and update products with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed. Furthermore, this software must be kept up-to-date, used to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Tokyo Olympics 2020" email letter:

Subject: Tokyo 2020 Information Letters for Federation/COVID-19 pandemic update

 

Dear Federation,

 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has some letters on dropbox for your federation about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 

hxxps://olympic.org/Dropbox/Information-Letter/COVID-19-Pandemic Update

 

We are continuously monitoring the ever changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and are going above and beyond to keep this under maximum control.

 

-

International Olympic Committee

-

Screenshot of the phishing website:

Phishing website promoted by one variant of Tokyo Olympics 2020 scam email

Screenshot of another "Tokyo Olympics 2020" email variant:

Tokyo Olympics 2020 email scam second variant

Text presented in this letter:

Subject: Tokyo 2020 Information Letters for Federation/COVID-19 pandemic update

 

Dear Federation,

 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has some letters on dropbox for your federation about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 

Sign in to our official website olympic.org to get your federation's letters and also other important information about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 

We are continuously monitoring the ever changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and are going above and beyond to keep this under maximum control.

 

-

International Olympic Committee

-

Screenshot of the phishing website promoted by this variant:

Phishing website promoted by the second variant of Tokyo Olympics 2020 scam email

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.

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