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Avoid infecting your device through "Payment Schedule" scam emails

Also Known As: Payment Schedule spam
Damage level: Severe

What is "Payment Schedule email virus"?

"Payment Schedule email virus" refers to a malware-spreading spam campaign. The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation, during which thousands of deceptive/scam emails are sent. The messages distributed through this campaign are presented as notifications concerning a payment schedule.

The purpose of "Payment Schedule email virus" is to proliferate the LokiBot Trojan.

Payment Schedule malware-spreading email spam campaign

The scam emails with title/subject "Payment Schedule" claim to have suggested payment dates attached to them. Recipients are asked to review the attachment, however, rather than containing the aforementioned schedule, the attached document ("USD_ Payment Schedule.xls" - the filename may vary) is designed to initiate LokiBot's infection chain. I.e., upon opening (specifically, after malicious macro commands are enabled), download/installation of the malicious program is triggered.

The LokiBot Trojan targets Windows OSs (Operating Systems) and Android OSs. The primary function of this malware is to steal a variety of sensitive information. It can extract stored account log-in credentials (IDs, usernames, and passwords) from browsers and other applications. Another feature of LokiBot is keylogging - it can record key strokes, thereby endangering the privacy of typed information.

LokiBot's capabilities are more extensive on Android OSs.

The Trojan can imitate the interface of various applications (e.g. Outlook, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.), through which it can obtain users' log-in credentials. This malware can also operate like ransomware, locking the device's screen and demanding payment for restoration of access.

LokiBot can self-proliferate through Android devices by sending virulent spam messages (e.g. SMSes, emails, etc.). Cyber criminals can use stolen communication accounts (e.g. emails, messengers, social networking/media, etc.) to ask contacts for loans and/or to spread malware (by sharing infectious files) under the guise of the genuine owner.

Accounts that directly or indirectly deal with finances (e.g. banking, online money transferring, digital wallet, e-commerce, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions and online purchases.

To summarize, by trusting "Payment Schedule email virus" messages, users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses and even identity theft.

If it is suspected/known that the LokiBot Trojan (or other malware) has already infected the system, use an anti-virus program to eliminate it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Payment Schedule spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Scam emails are presented as payment notifications
Attachment(s) USD_ Payment Schedule.xls
Detection Names BitDefender (VB:Trojan.Valyria.3530), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.OCM), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Downloader.Script.Generic), Microsoft (Trojan:Script/Wacatac.B!ml), 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 LokiBot
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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"Burofax Online", "Tienes Una Multa Pendiente", "Universal Medical Equipment", and "Advance Payment Received" are some examples of other malware-proliferating spam campaigns. The emails sent through these campaigns are usually presented as "official", "urgent", "important", "priority", and similar.

In fact, deceptive messages are not only employed to spread malicious programs, they are also used for phishing and other scams.

Due to the prevalence of spam emails, you are strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How did "Payment Schedule email virus" infect my computer?

Malware (including ransomware) is usually distributed via malspam campaigns, unofficial software activation ('cracking') tools, Trojans, dubious file/software download sources, and fake software updating tools.

When cyber criminals attempt to distribute malware via malspam campaigns, they send emails that contain malicious attachments or download links for malicious files. Typically, they disguise their emails as official and important. If recipients open the attached file (or a file downloaded via a website link), they cause installation of malicious software.

Cyber criminals commonly attach executable files (.exe), archive files such as RAR, ZIP, PDF documents, JavaScript files and Microsoft Office documents to their emails. Software 'cracking' tools supposedly activate licensed software illegally (bypass activation), however, they often install malicious programs and do not activate any legitimate installed software.

Trojans are other rogue programs that can cause chain infections. I.e., when a Trojan is installed on the operating system, it can install additional malware.

Free file hosting websites, freeware download websites, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), unofficial websites, and third party downloaders are examples of other sources that are used to distribute malware. Cyber criminals disguise malicious files as legitimate and regular. When users download and open them, they inadvertently infect their computers with malware.

Fake software updating tools install malicious software rather than updates/fixes for installed programs, or they exploit bugs/flaws of outdated software that is installed on the operating system.

How to avoid installation of malware

To avoid infecting the system with malware spread through spam mail, you are strongly advised not to open suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those with any attachments or links present in them. Use official and verified download channels.

Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers, since illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party updaters commonly proliferate malicious software.

To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is paramount to have reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware software installed and kept updated. Furthermore, use these programs to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.

Do not trust irrelevant emails that contain attachments or website links, especially if received from unknown, suspicious addresses.

Fake update tools infect systems by installing malicious programs rather than updates/fixes for installed software, or by exploiting bugs/flaws of outdated software that is installed on the computer.

Further encryption of any unaffected files can be prevented by uninstalling the ransomware, however, already compromised files remain encrypted even after removal of the rogue software and can only be recovered from a backup.

If you have already opened a "Payment Schedule email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Payment Schedule" scam email message:

Subject: Payment schedule

 

Hello,

 

Please find attached proposed payment dates for your reference.

 

Regards

Malicious attachment distributed via "Payment Schedule" spam campaign ("USD_ Payment Schedule.xls"):

Malicious attachment (USD_ Payment Schedule.xls) distributed through Payment Schedule spam campaign

Another variant Payment Schedule-themed spam email, this time promoting Agent Tesla Trojan via attached .img file:

Payment Schedule spam email promoting Agent Tesla (2021-04-12)

Text presented within:

Subject: Outstanding Payment scheduled for payment


We would like to pay the outstanding invoices attached today.
Please send me bank information.

Many thanks.

Kind regards,

Dragan Mihajlović

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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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