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Do not trust the "Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" scam email

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is the "Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" scam email?

"Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" is a spam campaign that uses the sextortion scam model. The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The messages distributed through this campaign claim that the sender has obtained highly compromising video footage of the recipient.

The nonexistent recordings were supposedly made via an exploit of a vulnerability found in the Zoom application, a legitimate conferencing service. These scam emails aim to trick recipients into paying ransoms to avoid having the fake videos publicized.

Note that all claims made by the "Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" messages are false.

Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app email spam campaign

The scam emails (with subject/title "Regarding Zoom Conference call", which may vary) state knowledge of the recipient having recently used the Zoom conferencing service. Due to an alleged weakness in the application's security, the sender claims to have infiltrated the recipient's device.

Specifically, the scammers claim to have gained access to the device's camera and data relating to the recipient's email account. Through the hijacked camera, compromising footage (of a sexual nature) has been recorded. The messages threaten to send the (nonexistent) video to the recipient's contacts (e.g., friends, family and colleagues).

To prevent this from happening, a ransom equivalent to US$2000 (USD) in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency must be paid within two days. The emails warn that the sender cannot be located and advise against contacting the authorities or taking other ill-advised actions.

As mentioned, none of the information provided by the "Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" scam emails is true - the recipients' devices have not been infiltrated, nor was any compromising footage recorded.

The purpose of these deceptive messages is to trick recipients into paying the scammers. Therefore, these scam emails should be ignored.

Threat Summary:
Name Zero Day Security Vulnerability On Zoom App Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim a compromising video of the recipient will be publicized, unless the user pays a ransom.
Ransom Amount US$2000 (USD) equivalent in Bitcoin cryptocurrency
Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Address 15y6ADpqBDvxNovWxeWEBXRGiPdj14vaKb (Bitcoin)
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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"I know that you visit 18+ content", "Your local network has been compromised", "I infected your computer with my private trojan", and "You have 46 Hours in order to make the payment" are some examples of other sextortion spam campaigns.

Deceptive emails are usually presented as "urgent", "important", "priority", and similar. They may even be disguised as mail from legitimate institutions, organizations, companies, businesses, service providers, and other entities. Spam campaigns are used for various scams, phishing, and malware proliferation.

Due to the prevalence of spam mail, exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Ransomware and other malware infections are commonly spread through malspam campaigns, untrusted file/software download sources, fake (third party) software updating tools, Trojans and unofficial software activation tools.

Using malspam, criminals send emails that have a malicious file attached, or include a website link designed to download a malicious file. Their main goal is to trick recipients into executing the file, which then infects the computer with malware. Cyber criminals usually attach a Microsoft Office document, archive file (ZIP, RAR), PDF document, executable file (.exe) or JavaScript file, and wait until recipients open it.

Note that malicious MS Office documents can install malware only when users enable editing/content (macros commands). If the documents are opened with MS Office versions prior to 2010, however, the documents install malicious software automatically, since these older versions do not include "Protected View" mode.

Examples of untrusted file and software download sources are Peer-to-Peer networks (torrent clients), free file hosting websites, freeware download sites, and unofficial web pages. These are used to distribute malicious files by disguising them as legitimate and regular. When users download and open (execute) the files, however, they inadvertently install malware.

Fake software updating tools cause damage by installing malware rather than updates/fixes for installed software, or by exploiting bugs/flaws of outdated software. Trojans are malicious programs that can cause chain infections by installing other software of this kind. Note that malware can only be distributed in this way if Trojans are already installed on computers.

Unofficial activation ('cracking') tools are illegal programs that supposedly activate licensed software free of charge and bypass activation, however, they often install other malicious programs instead.

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've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app" scam email message:

Subject: Regarding Zoom Conference call


Hello. I'll need your attention now. This is the last warning.
You have used Zoom recently, like most of us during these bad COVID times. And I have very unfortunate news for you.
I'll give you some background on what happened.

 

There was a zero day security vulnerability on Zoom app, that allowed me a full time access to your camera and some other metadata on your account.
You were just unlucky to be targeted.
And as you can imagine in your worst dreams, I have made a footage with you as a main actor.
You work on yourself (perform sex act to be clear). Having fun is ok with me, but is not ok with your reputation.

 

Please dont blame me or yourself for this. You couldn't know that the camera was working.
I'm sure you don't want to be the next Jeffrey Toobin and get embarrassed in front of all your friends, family and colleagues.
You should get this very clear, I will send this video to all your contacts if I dont get paid.
Are you wondering how I got your contacts? Through the same exploit, zoom app allowed me to extract all sensitive info from your device.

 

So here is what we will do. You pay me $2000 in bitcoin, and nothing of this will happen. You have 2 days to make the payment.
After I get the money, I will delete the footage and information about you. The amount is not negotiable.
Send 0.07 Bitcoin (about 2k USD at the current exchange rate) to my wallet 15y6ADpqBDvxNovWxeWEBXRGiPdj14vaKb
Having trouble with buying bitcoin? Just google on how to buy it, it's very easy to use and anonymous.
P.S. Don't try to report this to the police, I use TOR and bitcoin can't be traced. Do not email me back. If you do something stupid, I will distribute the video.
Good luck. Don’t stress.

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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 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.

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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