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Avoid infecting your system with malware via "Socar" scam emails

Also Known As: Vidar stealer
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

"Socar email virus" removal guide

What is the "Socar" scam?

"Socar email virus" refers to a malware-spreading spam campaign - a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The letters distributed through this campaign - are disguised as mail from SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic) - national oil and gas company headquartered in Baku, Azerbaijan. It must be emphasized that these scam emails are in no way associated with the genuine SOCAR company. The letters claim to have a copy of a bank payment receipt of the sender's order attached to them. Instead of containing the stated information, the attached file is designed to initiate download/installation of the Vidar trojan - upon opening. This malware is classified as a stealer, and it operates by exfiltrating sensitive and personal data from infected systems.

Socar malware-spreading email spam campaign

The fake "Socar" emails (subject/title "New order confirmation PO#757456 attached"; may vary) claim to contain an attachment, which is the new order's bank payment receipt copy. The scam letters state that the sender does not possess this order's invoice, and the goods themselves have not arrived yet. The emails request recipients to advise on and/or confirm the order's status. As mentioned in the introduction, all of the information provided by these "Socar" emails - is false. Therefore, instead of containing order-related information, the attached file triggers the infection process of Vidar malware - when it is opened.

Vidar trojan primarily operates as a stealer. In other words, it extracts vulnerable information from browsers, e.g., browsing history, IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, stored log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, usernames, passwords), and so on. Additionally, this malware can obtain message histories from certain messaging platforms. Vidar can also steal cryptocurrency wallets. This malicious program's other features include taking screenshots and causing chain infections (the latter depends on the malware's version). The Vidar trojan has been observed being used to download/install ransomware onto compromised devices (namely, GANDCRAB 5.0.4). Hence, in addition to the threats posed by Vidar, infected systems risk data encryption from ransomware programs. This malware type is designed to encrypt files and/or lock the device's screen - in order to demand ransoms for the decryption/ access recovery. In summary, by trusting the fake "Socar" emails, users risk experiencing multiple system infections, data loss, severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft. If it is suspected/known that Vidar (or other malware) has already infected the device - an anti-virus must be used to eliminate it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Vidar stealer
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Emails claim to contain a bank payment receipt of the sender's order.
Disguise Scam emails are disguised as mail from SOCAR.
Attachment(s) MT103_Swift-conformation#4425-28373XXX.exe (filename may vary)
Detection Names Avast (FileRepMalware), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.36690473), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of MSIL/Kryptik.AAKF), Kaspersky (UDS:Trojan.MSIL.Vobfus.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/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 Vidar
Rogue Process Name Image Studio (process name may vary)
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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"Empros Lines Email Virus", "Employee Retention Credit", "FedEx Express Email Virus", "I Have Obtained Document You Mailed Me", and "Qel Email Virus" are some examples of other malware-proliferating spam campaigns. The emails sent through these massive operations - are usually presented as "official", "urgent", "important", and similar. Aside from distribution of malicious programs, spam campaigns are also used for phishing and other scams. Due to how prevalent spam mail is, it is strongly recommended to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How did "Socar email virus" infect my computer?

Systems are infected via virulent files spread through spam campaigns. Infectious files are attached to and/or linked inside the scam emails. These files can be in various formats, e.g., Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), JavaScript, and so on. When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection chain (i.e., malware download/installation) is initiated. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This process begins the moment a document is opened - in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010. Newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. In these versions, users are asked to enable editing/content (i.e., macro commands) and warned of the potential risks.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid infecting the system via spam mail, it is advised against opening suspicious and irrelevant emails - especially any attachments or links found in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. Malware is not proliferated exclusively through spam campaigns. It is also distributed through untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools, and fake updaters. Therefore, it is important to always download from official and verified sources. Additionally, all programs have to be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device and user safety, it is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and updated. Furthermore, this software has to be used to run regular system scans and remove detected threats and issues. If you've already opened "Socar email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Socar" scam email letter:

Subject: New order confirmation PO#757456 attached

 

Dear sir,

 

We have attached bank payment receipt copy for the new order confirmation.

 

please note that the invoice for PO#7574 is not in our system. We haven't received the goods yet.

 

Kindly advice the status of the order as it is very important to us.

 

Best Regards

 

Theresa Zhang

 

Pride Industrial Group LLC

 

Accounting Department

 

SOCAR - STP LLC

 

H.Z. Taghiyev settlement. AZ5022 Sumgait, Azerbaijan
Mob: + 99455 9009524
nasrii@facetohen.com
www.socar-stp.ml

Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via "Socar" spam campaign ("MT103_Swift-conformation#4425-28373XXX.exe"):

Socar email virus attachment VirusTotal detections (MT103_Swift-conformation#4425-28373XXX.exe)

Screenshot of the malicious executable's process on Windows Task Manager ("Image Studio"):

Socar email virus malicious process (Image Studio - process name)

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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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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