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Avoid infecting your system with malware through fake "POEA" emails

Also Known As: NanoCore RAT
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is the fake "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration" email?

"Philippine Overseas Employment Administration" refers to a spam email campaign disguised as mail from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). The term "spam campaign" defines a large scale operation, during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent.

The messages of this spam campaign claim that recipients risk losing their licenses, unless they complete and submit the attached documents. In fact, these emails are fake and are in no way associated with the genuine POEA organization. The files attached to the scam emails are designed to infect systems with the NanoCore RAT (Remote Access Trojan).

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration malware-spreading email spam campaign

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is a legitimate agency dealing in opening benefits of the Philippine Overseas Employment Program, and the scam emails are disguised as reminders from this governmental agency. T

he fake messages state that, in compliance with the "POEA Advisory NO. 62- 2020 Series on accreditation of agencies", accredited recruitment agencies must complete the attached document and submit it to the POEA. This is supposedly a mandatory agency revalidation, which must be carried by the listed date.

Recipients are warned that all agencies that fail to comply will be suspended and have their licenses revoked. To further the impression of urgency and severity of this false warning, the emails have a file entitled "POEA LIST OF DELISTED AGENCIES IN 2020.uue" attached to them.

Upon opening the other attachment (which is allegedly the document recipients must complete and send), the infection process starts (download/installation) of NanoCore. This piece of malicious software is classified as a Remote Access Trojan (RAT). This type of malware enables remote access and control over an infected machine.

RATs have a broad range of functionalities, which can be used to manipulate a compromised device in various ways. This can lead to especially serious issues. To summarize, trusting the fake "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration" emails can result in system infections, device and/or data damage, financial loss, serious privacy issues and identity theft.

If it is suspected/known that NanoCore RAT (or other malware) has already infected the system, use anti-virus software to eliminate it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name NanoCore RAT
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Emails are disguised as urgent reminders from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Attachment(s) POEA LIST OF DELISTED AGENCIES IN 2020.uue and POEA MOMERANDUM NO. 62-2020 ON ACCREDITATION OF AGENCIES!.PDF.exe
Detection Names BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.34061661), FireEye (Generic.mg.24a230c9bf4d8a56), ESET-NOD32 (RAR/Agent.DD), Kaspersky (UDS:DangerousObject.Multi.Generic), 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 NanoCore
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Combo Cleaner. 7 days free trial available. Combo Cleaner is owned and operated by Rcs Lt, the parent company of PCRisk.com read more.

"You must go to the law court", "Inland Revenue Exchange System" and "Agenzia entrate" are some examples of other malware-proliferating spam campaigns. This is a common method of spreading malicious programs (e.g. Trojans, ransomware, cryptominers, etc.) and various scam models are used to trick recipients into unwittingly infecting their devices.

Scam emails are usually disguised as "official", "important", "urgent", "priority" and similar, and can also be presented as mail from genuine agencies organizations, companies and other entities. These deceptive messages might have other purposes such as phishing and other scams.

While such mail employs different deceptions, the purpose is simply to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind it.

How did "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Email Virus" infect my computer?

Spam campaigns infect systems through dangerous files, which can be attached to deceptive emails or, alternatively, the messages can contain download links to malicious content. Infectious files can be in various formats such as executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc.

When they are opened, the infection process/chain is started. I.e., when opened, these files begin downloading/installing malware. For example, Microsoft Office documents infect systems by executing malicious macro commands.

Once an MS document is opened, users are asked to enable macros (i.e. to enable editing/content), which triggers the infection, however, in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010, malware download/installation starts immediately the infectious document is opened, as macro commands are executed automatically in these versions.

How to avoid installation of malware

You are strongly advised against opening dubious or irrelevant emails, especially those received from suspect/unknown senders. Do not open any attachments or links found in suspicious messages, as they can lead to a serious system infection.

Additionally, you are advised to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010, since newer versions have "Protected View" mode, which prevents macros from being executed when a document is opened.

As well as spam campaigns, malicious software is also proliferated via untrusted download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools and bogus updaters.

Therefore, use only official/verified download sources and activate/update programs with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device and user safety, have a reputable anti-virus suite installed and kept up to date. Use it to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.

If you have already opened "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Email Virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration" email message:

Subject: POEA MOMERANDUM NO. 62-2020 ON ACCREDITATION OF AGENCIES!


Date : 2nd , JULY 2020

 

Reminder

 

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

 

Good day!

 

In compliance with the POEA Advisory NO. 62- 2020 Series on accreditation of agencies, all accredited recruitment agencies are mandated to fill attached document and submit to POEA for agency re-validation on or before Friday 3rd July 2020.

 

WARNING: The licence of any agency that failed to comply shall be suspended and withdrawn.

 

See attached.

 

PLEASE ACT ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIRECTIVES.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

BERNARD P. OLALIA
Administrator
722-1259/ 722-2263 / 724-3665 , 734-3724 (fax)

Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via "Philippine Overseas Employment Administration" spam campaign ("POEA MOMERANDUM NO. 62-2020 ON ACCREDITATION OF AGENCIES!.PDF.exe"):

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration email attachment detections on VirusTotal

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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Quick menu:

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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