Avoid having your accounts stolen by fake "Microsoft" emails
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is the "New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account" scam email?
"New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account email scam" refers to a spam campaign - a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The letters distributed through this campaign - claim that new applications have connected to recipients' Microsoft accounts.
The scam emails also state these apps have access to users' data. It must be emphasized that these email letters are in no way associated with the Microsoft Corporation. This spam mail aims to promote a phishing website designed to steal account log-in credentials.
The "New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account" scam emails inform the recipient that previously unconnected applications have access to their data. The letters then specify that "Gmail Android" has connected to the Microsoft account in question.
The recipient is instructed to remove these apps if they did not grant them access to the account. When the "Login Here to Manage your apps" button is clicked, it opens the promoted phishing website.
As mentioned in the introduction, this fake sign-in page operates by recording the information entered into it. Therefore, by attempting to log in through this webpage, users will inadvertently allow scammers access to their accounts.
It is likely that these scam emails target recipients' Microsoft accounts. However, the phishing site is not disguised as the actual Microsoft account sign-in page, nor does it specify with what account's log-in credentials (usernames/passwords) users have to sign in. Regardless, by gaining control over one account - scammers may be able to access others as well.
This can occur due to the inadvisable yet common practice of using the same passwords for multiple accounts. Emails are of particular interest to scammers - as they are typically connected to other platforms and services (e.g., they are registered through the emails).
Therefore, emails can serve as a gateway to other accounts. To elaborate on how scammers can abuse stolen accounts - by pretending to be the communication platform's (e.g., email, social media, social networking, messenger, etc.) genuine owners - they can ask the contacts/friends for loans. These accounts can also be used to spread malware by sharing infectious files or links to malicious websites.
Should compromising or especially sensitive content be found on data-storage platforms/services - it may be held for ransom under the threat of publication. Finance-related accounts (e.g., banking, online money transferring, e-commerce, digital wallets, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions and/or online purchases.
To summarize, by trusting the "New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account" scam emails, users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft. If attempts to sign in through the phishing site have already been made, it is strongly advised to immediately change the compromised account's log-in credentials.
Furthermore, it is recommended to contact the official support of the endangered account.
|Name||New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account email scam|
|Threat Type||Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud|
|Fake Claim||Scam emails claim new apps have connected to recipients' Microsoft accounts.|
|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.
"Nextiva email scam", "Account Missing Or Incomplete", "DHL Package Tracking Confirmation", and "System Administrator Quota Update" are a few examples of phishing spam campaigns. The letters distributed through these mass-scale operations are usually disguised as "important", "urgent", "priority", and/or as mail from legitimate companies, institutions, authorities, organizations, or other entities.
Spam mail is not used exclusively for phishing and different scams, it is also employed to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, etc.). Regardless of what these emails promise, offer, claim, request, or demand, the end-goal is the same - to generate revenue at user expense.
How do spam campaigns infect computers?
Spam campaigns spread malware via infectious files distributed through them. These files can be attached to the scam emails, or the letters can contain download links of malicious content.
This process begins the moment a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010. Later versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users can manually enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content), and they are alerted of the potential risks.
How to avoid installation of malware?
Dubious and irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.
Aside from spam campaigns, malware is also proliferated via untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates. Therefore, it is advised to download only from official and verified sources.
Furthermore, all software products must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device integrity and user privacy, it is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed and updated.
These programs have to be used to run regular system scans and remove detected threats and issues. 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 "New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account" scam email letter:
Subject: New app(s) connected to your Microsoft ******** account
New app(s) have access to your data
Gmail Android connected to the Microsoft account ********.
If you didn't grant this access, please remove the app(s) from your account.
Login Here to Manage your apps
You can also opt out or change where you receive security notifications.
The Microsoft account team 2021
Screenshot of the phishing website promoted via the "New app(s) have access to your Microsoft Account" spam campaign:
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- What is New App(s) Have Access To Your Microsoft Account spam?
- Types of malicious emails.
- How to spot a malicious email?
- What to do if you fell for an email scam?
Types of malicious 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.
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.
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:
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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