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Do not click on the link in EMPLOYEE BENEFITS email scam

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is EMPLOYEE BENEFITS email scam?

Typically, the main purpose of phishing scams is to trick recipients into clicking on a website link that opens some deceptive page asking to enter personal information, or downloads malware, or opening an attachment that installs malicious software. Simply said, cyber criminals use phishing emails to spread malware or extract sensitive information.

Most of the times, cybercriminals behind phishing attacks pretend to be legitimate companies, organization. Also, their emails are disguised as important, official, urgent, etc.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS phishing scam

This phishing email is disguised as a letter from the HR department. It says that the file attached to it contains a list of employees that are eligible for some benefits. The main purpose of this scam is to trick recipients into opening the attachment (HTML file), which opens a fake Microsoft login page, and entering their login credentials (email address and password) on it.

Simply said, scammers behind this phishing campaign seek to hijack Microsoft accounts. Hijacked accounts could be used to access personal, sensitive documents, photos, or other personal data.

Depending on the accessed data, it could be misused in various ways, for example, to make fraudulent purchases, transactions, steal identities, send mapslam, trick other people into making money transactions, and for other malicious purposes.

Also, scammers may sell stolen credentials/accounts to third parties (other cyber criminals), or try to use the same login credentials to access other accounts, which could lead to even more problems. Therefore, it is strongly advisable no to click on links or open files in emails without being completely sure that it is safe.

Threat Summary:
Name EMPLOYEE BENEFITS Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Employees are eligible for benefits
Disguise Letter from the HR department
Related Domain similaroutside[.]com
Detection Names (similaroutside[.]com) Emsisoft (Phishing), ESET (Phishing), Kaspersky (Phishing), Netcraft (Malicious), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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It is important to know that scammers behind other phishing attacks may attempt to trick unsuspecting recipients into providing other sensitive information such as bank account numbers, credit card details, social security numbers, addresses, names, surnames, etc.

More examples of phishing emails are "Synchronize Mail Error Email Scam", "New Sign-In On Email Scam", "Ministero Dello Sviluppo Economico Email Virus", and "Energias de Portugal (EDP) Email Virus". A couple of examples of malware that cybercriminals often deliver via email are Ursnif, Emotet, Dridex, and LokiBot.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Typically, emails that are used to deliver malware contain a download link for a malicious file or malicious attachment. In one way or another, recipients install malware after downloading and executing a malicious file, for example, Microsoft Office, PDF document, ZIP, RAR or another archive file, some executable file (like .exe), JavaScript, VBS file.

It is important to mention that users who would open malicious documents with Microsoft Office 2010 or later would be asked to enable macros commands (enable editing/content). Those documents could not infect computers unless users would allow them to.

Although, it does not apply to malicious documents that would be opened with older MS Office versions: those versions do not have the "Protected View" mode that prevents malicious documents from installing malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Software (and files) should be downloaded from official, trustworthy websites. It is not safe to downloads from Peer-to-Peer networks, unofficial sites, third-party downloaders, free file hosting pages, and other questionable sources. Email attachments (or website links in emails) in that are received from unknown or suspicious senders should not be opened.

It is important to analyze emails that contain files or links before clicking/opening them. Installed programs have to be updated or activated with tools or functions from their official developers. Other (third party, unofficial) tend to be used to distribute malware: they have a malicious code injected in them.

Also, it is not legal to use 'cracking' tools or pirated software. The operating system should be scanned for malware and other threats regularly. It is advisable to run scans using a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. The installed security suite should always be up to date.

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 phishing email:

Subject: Update on ******** PoIicy at 16 February, 2021

Dear ********,

Employees in the following employment classification(s) are eligible for the EMPLOYEE BENEFITS as described in this attached Policy. E ach employee will be held for these values to ensure our continued growth and success.

Kindly review the compliance section in the attachment to proceed .
           

******** HR DEPARTMENT

Screenshot of the fake Microsoft login website:

employee benefits email scam fake microsoft login page

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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