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

Also Known As: Philippine Overseas Employment Administration spam
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 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration spam
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)

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"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:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing 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.

Email-virus icon 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.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

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:

Example of an email spam

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.

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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.

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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