How to avoid installation of Dridex via MSC malspam email?

Also Known As: Dridex malware
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is MSC email virus?

As a rule, when cyber criminals use malspam emails to deliver malware, they send emails that are disguised as official, important and/or urgent letters from legitimate companies, organizations and contain a malicious attachment or download link for a malicious file.

In one way or another, their main goal is to trick as many recipients as possible into downloading and opening a malicious file that is designed to install malware. This particular email is disguised as a letter from MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) and it contains a malicious document that is designed to infect computers with Dridex.

The actual MSC company has nothing do to with this malspam campaign.

MSC email virus malware-spreading email spam campaign

This email is disguised as a letter regarding periodic summary of account activity (financial transactions). More precisely, it is disguised as an overdue invoice that a recipient has yet to pay and is past the invoice due date.

Its main purpose is to trick a recipients into opening the attached Microsoft Excel document named "printouts of outstanding as of 79044_12_11_2020.xlsm" (its name may vary). If that document is opened and macros commands in it are enabled, it starts installation of Dridex.

Dridex is the name of a banking Trojan that steals banking credentials and other personal information. Cyber criminals such Trojans it with a purpose to access victim's bank account (or multiple bank accounts) and use them to make fraudulent transactions.

Additionally, Dridex functions as a keylogger - it records keyboard input. Therefore, it can be used as a tool to steal sensitive information (e.g., passwords, credit card details) that a victim enters using a keyboard connected to the infected computer.

Moreover, Dridex can perform injection attacks - it can infect a computer with some other malware and/or execute remote commands, or inject code into a some installed software and modify its behaviour.

Threat Summary:
Name Dridex malware
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Email from MSC regarding overdue invoice
Attachment(s) printouts of outstanding as of 79044_12_11_2020.xlsm (its name may vary)
Detection Names ALYac (Trojan.Downloader.XLS.gen), Cyren (PP97M/Agent.LA.gen!Eldorado), ESET-NOD32 (VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.VCK), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.Script.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 Dridex
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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To summarize, whoever would have a computer infected with Dridex may become a victim of identity theft, lose access to personal accounts, suffer monetary loss, experience issues related to online privacy, and/or encounter other serious problems.

Therefore, recipients of this (or any other similar) malspam email should never open the file attached to it (or a website link that is included in it). A couple examples of other malspam campaigns that are used to deliver malware are "FedEx Freight Email Virus", "iPhone 12 Email Virus" and "VodaFone Email Virus".

How did "MSC email virus" infect my computer?

Recipients infect their computers with malware when they download and open a malicious file that is attached to the email or open a file that they have downloaded via included website link.

In this particular case a recipient causes installation of Dridex by opening the attached MS Excel document named "printouts of outstanding as of 79044_12_11_2020.xlsm" (its name may vary) and enables macros command (editing/content) in it.

It is worthwhile to mention that if a recipient opens a malicious document with the Microsoft Office that was released prior the year 2010, then that document infects a computer automatically. It is because Microsoft Office 2010 and never versions have the "Protected View" mode which prevents opened malicious documents from installing malware.

Some more examples of types of files that cyber criminals use in their malspam campaigns are JavaScript files, executable files (like .exe), other Microsoft Word documents, archive files (like ZIP, RAR) and PDF documents.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious address, and contain some website link or attachment are likely to be sent by some cyber criminals so seek to trick recipients into opening a malicious file that is designed to install malware. Therefore, such emails should not be trusted.

Installed software must be updated and/or activated with tools that are designed/provided by its official developers. Third party, unofficial tools should never be used neither to update or activate any software, it is common that such tools are used to distribute malware.

Also, it is not legal to activate licensed software with unofficial activation ('cracking') tools, or use installers for pirated software. Files and programs should be downloaded from official, legitimate pages (and via direct links).

Other sources, channels like Peer-to-Peer networks (like torrent clients, eMule), unofficial pages, third party downloaders, etc., can be used to distribute malicious files, programs. The same applies to third party installers.

The operating system should be scanned for malware and other threats regularly, it should be done with an up-to-date and reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. If you've already opened MSC malspam email attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the MSC malspam email:

Subject: Freight Statement Of Outstanding As Of 12_11_2020.eml

Dear Valued Customer,

Please find attached statement of your account including all current, past due and credit balances.
Kindly note, this statement may not reflect payments submitted in the last 48 hours.

        Current:                        $0.00
        1-30 days overdue:              $1,050.00
        31-60 days overdue:             $0.00
        61-90 days overdue:             $0.00
        91-180 days overdue:            $0.00
        Over 180 days overdue:  $0.00

Total Overdue: $1,050.00

Available Credits from Overpayments: $0.00

Please remit payment at your earliest convenience.

For wire transfers use: JPMorgan Chase Bank, Account # 218811139, ABA 0210-0002-1, Swift CHASUS33. Your remittance advice shall be emailed to us082-Achpaymentsnewyork@msc.com and should include payer name, full amount of the wire and break-down allocation of the payment by invoice/bill of lading number.

Best Regards,

Credit and Collections Dept

Examples of malicious MS Excel documents distributed via MSC spam emails:

Malicious MS Excel document distributed via MSC email spam (sample 1) Malicious MS Excel document distributed via MSC email spam (sample 2) Malicious MS Excel document distributed via MSC email spam (sample 3) Malicious MS Excel document distributed via MSC email spam (sample 4) Malicious MS Excel document distributed via MSC email spam (sample 5)

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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