Avoid exposing sensitive data by trusting "Server Notification" emails

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

"Server Notification" email scam removal guide

What is the "Server Notification" scam email?

"Server Notification" is the name of an email spam campaign. The term "spam campaign" is used to define a large scale operation, during which scam emails are sent by the thousand. There are several, practically identical variants of the "Server Notification" emails. These letters claim that additional safety measures must be taken to secure the recipients' email accounts. "Server Notification" is a phishing spam campaign, i.e. it is designed to extract sensitive/private information from victims.

Server Notification scam email spam campaign

The researched "Server Notification" email variants are very similar, the key difference being the reason given for the fake alert. The letters state that to keep the recipients' email accounts safe, they must provide a recovery mobile number. According to one variant - this is a new security measure, another claims that a phone number has to be added due to irregular log-in attempts with an incorrect password having been observed to the email account in question. The letters then go on to inform recipients that if a mobile number is not added, their mail accounts will be suspended/deactivated and the email data will be permanently lost. Typically, the links presented in such scam emails lead to phishing websites, which can target a wide variety of vulnerable information. Some are designed to steal account log-in credentials (i.e. usernames and passwords), these sites are presented as either generic sign-in pages or they can closely mimic ones of legitimate services (e.g. sign-in pages of genuine email service providers). However, phishing websites can also request other information, e.g. names, addresses, telephone numbers, banking account and/or credit card details, etc. These webpages can offer various fake reasons as to why the data must be entered, like - additional security measures, updates to contact or recovery information, billing information for subscription or other services, and so on. To summarize, trusting "Server Notification" or similar emails can result in access loss to certain accounts, severe privacy issues, financial losses and even identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name Server Notification Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Additional safety measures are required to secure recipients' email accounts.
Disguise Disguised as notifications from recipients' email administrator.
Related Domains mcia[.]mu
Detection Names (mcia[.]mu) Spamhaus (Phishing), Comodo Valkyrie Verdict (Phishing), CRDF (Malicious), DNS8 (Suspicious), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Serving IP Address (mcia[.]mu) 197.227.37.5
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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"GitHub Email Scam", "Your Google Ads account has been suspended" and "ShareFile Attachment Email Scam" are a couple examples of other phishing spam campaigns. Deceptive emails are usually presented as "official", "urgent", "priority" and similar; they can even be disguised as mail from legitimate entities (e.g. service providers, institutions, companies, etc.). However, phishing is not the only use of spam campaigns, they are also employed to proliferate trojans, ransomware and other malware. Regardless of what scam letters claim, offer, request or demand, the end-goal is the same - to generate profit for the scammers / cyber criminals behind them.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are infected through virulent files, distributed via spam campaigns. These files can be attached to the emails or alternatively, the letters can contain download links of malicious content. Infectious files can be in a wide variety of formats, such as: Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive (ZIP, RAR, etc.) and executable (.exe, .run, etc.) files, JavaScript, and so forth. When malicious files are executed, run or otherwise opened - the infection process/chain is triggered. In other words, once opened - the files initiate download/installation of malware. For example, Microsoft Office documents infect systems by executing malicious macro commands. In MS Office versions released prior to 2010, the infection process begins the moment a virulent document is opened. However, the newer versions have "Protected View" mode, which prevents macros from being executed automatically. Upon opening, users are asked to enable macro commands (i.e. to enable editing/content), hence infection is only initiated if the macros are enabled manually.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is strongly advised against opening suspicious and/or irrelevant emails, especially any attachments or links present in them - as doing so can lead to a high-risk system infection. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. Aside from spam campaigns, malware is also proliferated through dubious download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fake updaters. Therefore, it is crucial to only download from official/trustworthy sources and activate/update programs with tools or functions provided by legitimate developers. To protect device health and user safety, it is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed. This software must be kept updated, used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats/issues. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in one variant of the "Server Notification" email letter:

SERVER NOTIFICATION

 

To keep your Email account safe, we recommend you add a recovery mobile number.
This is our new security measure.
Email: -
Password: * (Hidden for safety)
Recovery No: none yet
 
ADD RECOVERY NUMBER NOW
 
However, if you do not add your NUMBER, Your account will be
de-activated shortly and all your email data will be lost permanently.
Regards.
Email Administrator
 
This message is auto-generated from E-mail security server, and replies sent to this email can not be delivered. This email is meant for: -

Screenshot of another variant of the "Server Notification" scam email:

Second variant of the Server Notification scam email

Text presented in this variant:

SERVER NOTIFICATION

 

To keep your Email account safe, we recommend you add a recovery mobile number.
We notice irregular attempt to login
with wrong password from below IP.
IP: 86.134.194.70
Port: 2526
Location: Philippine
Email: -
Password: ******* (Hidden for safety)
Recovery No: none yet
 
ADD RECOVERY NUMBER NOW
 
However, if you do not add your NUMBER, Your account will be
suspended shortly and all your email data will be at risk.
Regards.
Email Administrator
 
This message is auto-generated from E-mail security server, and replies sent to this email can not be delivered. This email is meant for: -

Screenshot of the phishing website promoted by the "Server Notification" scam emails (at the time of research the website's page that emails were redirecting to was not available):

Server Notification scam email promoted phishing website

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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