Do not trust fake "WhatsApp" emails concerning chat/call backups

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

"WhatsApp" email scam removal guide

What is the fake "WhatsApp" email?

"WhatsApp email scam" refers to an email spam campaign. The term "spam campaign" is used to define a large-scale operation, during which thousands of deceptive/scam letters are sent. Much as the name implies, the emails distributed through this spam campaign are disguised as important notifications from WhatsApp - cross-platform messaging and VoIP (Voice over IP) service. It must be emphasized that these deceptive emails are in no way associated with the genuine WhatsApp. The scam letters are in Portuguese and claim that they contain recipients' WhatsApp message/call history backups. However, the attached HTML file and the link listed in the emails - redirect to a phishing website, which is designed to trick recipients into providing their personal information.

WhatsApp scam email spam campaign

According to a rough translation, the fake "WhatsApp" emails' subject states that recipients' private messages have been attached to the letters. The text within the emails lists the retrieved messaging and call histories. Supposedly, the backups are of: 46 deleted WhatsApp messages, 3549 read messages and 1236579 restored messages. However, as mentioned in the introduction, both the link in the letters and the attached HTML file - redirect to a phishing website. Sites of this type can target a wide variety of sensitive/personal information, e.g. names, surnames, addresses, telephone numbers, emails, banking account and/or credit card details. Furthermore, some phishing websites are disguised as log-in/sign-in pages of legitimate services/platforms. Hence, by entering IDs, username and passwords to such sites - users inadvertently expose them to the websites' designers - thereby, resulting in the accounts being stolen. In summary, by trusting the "WhatsApp" scam emails users risk experiencing severe privacy issues, financial losses and even identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name WhatsApp Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim they contain recipients' WhatsApp chat/call history backups.
Disguise WhatsApp
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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"Account Access Disabled", "Email Quarantine", "National Lottery", "Wire Transfer" and "POWERBALL OFFICIAL 2020 WINNINGS" are some examples of other phishing spam campaigns. Deceptive letters are usually presented as "official", "priority", "urgent" and similar; they may even be disguised as mail from legitimate companies, institutions, organizations, service providers and other entities. However, spam campaigns are used not only for phishing but also for other scams. What is more, they are used to distribute trojans, ransomware and other malware. Due to the relative prevalence of spam mail, it is strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are infected with malware via infectious files distributed through spam campaigns. The scam letters contain download links of malicious files and/or the files are simply attached to the emails. Virulent files can in various formats (e.g. archives, executables, PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc.) and when they are opened - the infection process (i.e. malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. In Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010 - macros are executed the moment a document is opened. However, newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic macro command execution; instead, users are asked to enable macros (i.e. to enable editing/content). Therefore, in these versions - infection processes can only begin after macro commands are manually enabled.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and/or irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any links or files attached to them - as they are the source of potential system infections. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. However, malware are also commonly distributed via untrustworthy download sources (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updaters. Therefore, it is advised to always use official/verified download channels, activate and update programs with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. This software has to be 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 "WhatsApp" scam email letter:

Subject: Mensagens Privadas foi anexado a este e-mail ID:   (488218)

 

Faça backup da conversa do WhatsApp e do histórico de chamadas

 

Backup encontrado:
 * Mensagens excluídas do WhatsApp (46)
 * Leia mensagens (3549)
 * (1236579) Mensagens restauradas

 

Segunda-feira, 04 de novembro de 2020

 

BAIXAR-HISTÓRICO - CONVERSA

 

2020 © WhatsApp Inc.

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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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