Do not open fake "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico" emails

Also Known As: Ministero Dello Sviluppo Economico spam
Damage level: Severe

What is "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico email virus"?

"Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico email virus" refers to a spam campaign designed to proliferate the Ursnif trojan. The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent.

The scam messages distributed through this campaign are disguised as messages from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico). The emails claim to contain information relating to tax and social security benefits for companies. Upon opening, the attached file initiates download/installation of Ursnif malware.

Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico malware-spreading email spam campaign

According to a rough translation, the fake "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico" emails (subjects/titles "Circolare 10/02/2021 , informazione aiuti per le ditte" may vary) claim to contain clarifications concerning tax and social security benefits for eligible companies.

Supposedly, the information details types, conditions, terms, duration, and implementation procedures of the aid package. Note that these scam messages are in no way associated with the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

Instead of containing the alleged information, the attached file ("conten_6166927.doc"; filename may vary) initiates Ursnif Trojan's infection chain when opened.

The main functionality of Ursnif is data theft. This malware can extract information from the infected system, applications installed on it, record key-strokes (keylogging), take screenshots, and perform other actions on the compromised device.

Data of interest includes (but is not limited to): system/user information, browsing activity (URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries typed, etc.), IP addresses, geolocations, account log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, usernames, and passwords), banking account and credit card details, etc.

To elaborate on how the exfiltrated information can be misused, cyber criminals can claim to be the users and ask their friends/contact for loans or spread malware via stolen communication accounts (e.g., social media/networking, emails, messengers, etc.).

Accounts that directly or indirectly deal with finances (e.g., bank, digital wallet, e-commerce, online money transferring, and similar accounts) are particularly targeted by criminals. By hijacking such accounts, cyber criminals can make fraudulent transactions and online purchases.

To summarize, trusting the "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico email virus" scam messages can result in system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft. If it is suspected/known that Ursnif (or other malware) has already infected the system, use anti-virus software to remove it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Ministero Dello Sviluppo Economico spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Scam emails claim to contain information concerning potential taxes/benefits for companies.
Disguise Scam emails are presented as mail from Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (Ministry of Economic Development).
Attachment(s) conten_6166927.doc (filename may vary)
Detection Names Arcabit (HEUR.VBA.Trojan.d), Avira (no cloud) (HEUR/Macro.Downloader.MRABV.Gen), ESET-NOD32 (VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.VMH), McAfee-GW-Edition (BehavesLike.Downloader.dc), TACHYON (Suspicious/WOX.Downloader.Gen), 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 Ursnif
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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"C.H. Robinson", "Zoho Email Virus", "Coca Cola Email Virus", "Advance Payment Received", and "Enel Email Virus" are some examples of other malware-spreading spam campaigns. The deceptive emails are usually disguised as "official", "important", "urgent", "priority", and so on.

As well as malicious software proliferation, spam campaigns are also used for phishing and other scams. Regardless of how these messages are presented, their goal is identical: to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them. Due to spam mail's relative prevalence, you are strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How did "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico email virus" infect my computer?

Systems are often infected via malicious files distributed through spam campaigns. These files can be attached and/or linked inside the emails. Infectious files can be in various formats (e.g. Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive and executable files, JavaScript, etc.).

When these files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process (i.e. malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents (e.g. "Invoice_24077.xlsb") cause infections by executing malicious macro commands.

In Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010, malware download/installation begins when an infectious document is opened, however, newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users are asked to enable macro commands (i.e., to enable editing/content) and hence infection processes can only be started by manually enabling macros.

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 "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico" scam email message:

Subject: Circolare 10/02/2021 , informazione aiuti per le ditte

Il Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico, dipartimento per lo sviluppo dell'economia,
reparto per la promozione delle attivita
imprenditoriali, Dispone:
La presente missiva dispensa chiarimenti in merito alla
tipologia, alle condizioni, ai termini, alla durata e alle modalita di fruizione delle
agevolazioni fiscali e contributive previste per il pacchetto di aiuti alle
imprese ,al fine di portare a conoscenza di tutti i soggetti interessati, anteriormente.
In allegato l'archivio contenente i dettagli riguardanti le singole
tipologie di attivita e l'elenco delle varie modalita di fruizione.
Via Giorgione, 2b - 00147 Roma

Malicious attachment distributed via "Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico" spam campaign ("conten_6166927.doc"):

Malicious attachment distributed through Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico spam campaign (conten_6166927.doc filename)

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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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