How to avoid installation of Dridex via MSC malspam emails

Also Known As: MSC spam
Damage level: Severe

What is MSC email virus?

Generally, when cyber criminals use malspam to deliver malware, they send emails that are disguised as official, important and/or urgent messages from legitimate companies and organizations and contain a malicious attachment or download link for a malicious file. Their main goal is to trick as many recipients as possible into downloading and opening the malicious file, which then installs malware.

This particular email is disguised as a message from the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and contains a document that infects computers with Dridex.

Note that 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 message 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 recipients into opening the attached Microsoft Excel document named "printouts of outstanding as of 79044_12_11_2020.xlsm" (its name may vary).

If the document is opened and macros commands within it are enabled, it starts installation of Dridex, a banking Trojan that steals banking credentials and other personal information. Cyber criminals use these Trojans to access victims' bank account (or multiple bank accounts) and employ them to make fraudulent transactions.

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

Furthermore, Dridex can perform 'injection attacks' and can infect computers with other malware and execute remote commands, or inject code into installed software and modify its behaviour.

Threat Summary:
Name MSC spam
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, users with computers infected with Dridex may become victims of identity theft, lose access to personal accounts, suffer monetary loss, experience issues relating to online privacy, and encounter other serious problems.

Therefore, recipients of this (or any other similar) malspam emails should never open the files attached (or website links included). Some 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 an included website link.

In this particular case, the 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 enabling macros command (editing/content).

Some examples of files that cyber criminals send via email are Microsoft Office and PDF documents, executables (.exe), JavaScript, and archives (ZIP, RAR).

Note that malicious documents that are opened with Microsoft Office 2010 or newer versions install malicious software only if users enable macros commands (enable editing/content). These versions include "Protected View" mode, which does not allow opened malicious documents to install malware automatically. Older versions do not include this feature and install malicious software without asking permission.

How to avoid installation of malware

To avoid malware spread via spam mail, you are strongly advised against opening suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those with any attachments or links present within them.

Additionally, use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. Malicious programs also proliferate through untrusted download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal software activation ("cracking") tools, and fake updaters.

Therefore, only download from official/verified sources and activate and update software with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers.

To ensure device integrity and user privacy, have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. Furthermore, use these programs to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.

If you have already opened a 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)

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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.

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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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