How to avoid installation of Agent Tesla via Contract Agreement email?

Also Known As: Agent Tesla RAT
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is Contract Agreement email virus?

In most cases, cybercriminals behind malspam campaigns impersonate legitimate companies, organizations, or other entities. They send emails that have some malicious file attached to them or contain a website link designed to download a malicious file.

Usually, their emails are disguised as important, urgent letters containing an invoice, purchase order, or some other document. In one way or another, their goal is to trick recipients into downloading and opening a malicious file designed install malware on the operating system.

This malspam campaign is used to distribute Agent Tesla, a remote access trojan (RAT).

Contract Agreement email virus malware-spreading email

Cybercriminals behind this malspam campaign attempt to trick recipients into believing that they have received an email from SIA & AFRICA GENERAL TRADING L.L.C and the file attached to it (named "Signed Contract Agreement.zip") is a contract that should be signed and then sent back. Although, the file attached to this email is a ZIP archive file containing a malicious executable file (named "Signed Contract Agreement.exe").

It is important to mention that the filename of a malicious attachment may be different (e.g., "FlushAsyncInternald68.exe") in other email variants. In one way or another, the purpose of this malspam campaign is to trick recipients into executing a malicious file designed to install Agent Tesla.

Agent Tesla is the name of a remote access trojan that cybercriminals use to steal login credentials (usernames, email addresses, passwords), and other sensitive information by using its ability to record keyboard input and gather clipboard data. It means that Agent Tesla can be used to steal data that could be used to access email clients, messaging clients, certain FTP and VPN clients, download managers, etc.

In most cases, cybercriminals use hijacked accounts to steal identities, make unauthorized purchases, transactions, distribute malicious programs, trick other users into making money transactions, and for other purposes. Another important detail about Agent Tesla is that this RAT can be used to prevent victims from accessing the Task Manager, system registry, and executing commands via the Command Prompt.

It means that Agent Tesla can be used as a tool to infect computers with other malware, disable or even uninstall installed antivirus, anti-spyware or other software, and perform other tasks.

Threat Summary:
Name Agent Tesla RAT
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Email attachment is a contract that needs to be signed and sent back
Attachment(s) Signed Contract Agreement.zip, FlushAsyncInternald68.zip, or a malicious file with another filename
Detection Names (FlushAsyncInternald68.exe) Avast (Win32:MalwareX-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.36982185), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of MSIL/Kryptik.ABDU), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.MSIL.Taskun.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:MSIL/AgenteslaPacker!MTB), 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 Agent Tesla
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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It is very common that cybercriminals use email as tool to trick users/recipients into infecting their computers with malware. More examples of malspam campaigns used to deliver malicious progrsms via links or files in emails are THUAN HIEP THANH Email Virus", "Pending Order Email Virus", and "Your Address Is Invalid Email Virus".

It is noteworthy that most cybercriminals use names and logos of legitimate companies, names of existing people, etc., to give their emails legitimacy. A couple examples of malicious programs that were or still are distributed via email are Snake Keylogger, FormBook, and LokiBot.

How did "Contract Agreement email virus" infect my computer?

This malspam campaign is used to trick recipients into executing a malicious executable extracted from the attached ZIP file. Research shows that the attached files can be named "Signed Contract Agreement.zip", "FlushAsyncInternald68.zip" or have another filename. Either way, cybercriminals behind this campaign succeed when recipients execute a malicious file designed to install Agent Tesla.

More examples of files that cybercriminals can use in their malspam campaigns are Microsoft Word and Excel documents, PDF documents, RAR and other archive files, JavaScript files. It is worthwhile to mention that malicious documents opened with Microsoft Office versions released prior to the year 2010 infect computers automatically.

Although, malicious documents opened with newer versions do not install malicious software unless users enable macros commands (editing/content). In other words, newer MS Office versions have the "Protected View" mode that prevents malicious documents from automatically installing malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is recommended not to download (or install) any programs or files using third-party software downloaders, installers, from untrustworthy websites, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), and so on. Files/programs downloaded from official websites and via direct download links.

Files (and website links) in irrelevant emails sent from unknown, suspicious addresses should not be opened - it is very common that such emails are used to trick recipients into installing malware (they contain malicious links or files). Installed programs have to be updated and activated properly - it has to be achieved using tools or functions that their official developers provide/have created.

It is strongly recommended not to use third-party tools for that - most of them are designed to install malware. Another detail about 'cracking' tools is that it is against the law to use them to activate licensed software.

Additionally, it is recommended to scan computers for viruses and other threats with a reputable security solution (anti-spyware or antivirus software). If you've already opened "Contract Agreement email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Contract Agreement email virus" email letter:

Subject: Signed Contract Agreement

Dear Sir,

Please find attached the contract agreement.
Kindly confirm, sign and send back to us.
We will appreciate your kind response.

Best Regards,

Chittibabu .M


P O BOX 172363, AL RAS,
TEL:- +971 4 2268241
FAX:- +971 4 2268251  

Mob: 00971-528108159

Detection names of a malicious file designed to install Agent Tesla on VirusTotal:

contract agreement email virus virustotal

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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