Avoid infecting your device with malware via fake "Santander" emails
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is the fake "Santander" email?
"Santander email virus" is the name of a malware-proliferating spam campaign. The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation during which deceptive emails are sent by the thousand.
The scam emails distributed through this campaign are disguised as letters from the Italian branch of the Banco Santander multinational financial services company. It must be emphasized that these emails are fake and in no way associated with the genuine Santander Group.
The aim of this spam mail is to trick recipients into opening the virulent files attached to the letters. Once opened, the attachment triggers download/installation of the LokiBot trojan.
According to a rough translation, the fake "Santander" emails (subject/title "Riconferma coordinate bancarie"; may vary) inform recipients that a customer has requested a SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) transfer to be made to the indicated bank account. Hence, recipients are asked to confirm their banking details in the attached order document.
As mentioned in the introduction, these letters are a scam. Therefore, when the attachment is opened - LokiBot trojan's infection chain is initiated.
LokiBot is an information-stealing malware. It can extract and exfiltrate various personal and sensitive data. Among its abilities are keylogging (recording keystrokes) and data extraction from browsers and other installed applications.
Typically, both of these functionalities are used to obtain the same information - account/platform log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, email addresses, usernames, passwords) and finance-related data (e.g., bank account details, credit card numbers, etc.). Hijacked accounts can be misused in a variety of ways.
For example, cyber criminals can assume the victim's identity and ask their contacts, friends, or followers to loan them money. Distribute malware by sharing infectious files or links to malicious websites on the stolen platforms.
Banking, e-commerce, digital wallets, and other similar accounts can be used to make fraudulent transactions and/or online purchases. To summarize, by trusting the fake "Santander" emails, users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft.
If suspected or known that the LokiBot trojan (or other malware) has already infected the system - an anti-virus must be used to eliminate it immediately.
|Threat Type||Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.|
|Hoax||Bank account detail confirmation requests.|
|Disguise||Scam emails are disguised as messages from the Santander Consumer Bank.|
|Attachment(s)||Proforma.exe (filename may vary)|
|Detection Names||Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.46445475), ESET-NOD32 (Win32/PSW.Fareit.L), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Inject.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/Lokibot.KZ!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.|
|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.
"Contech Email Virus", "Contract Agreement", "Pending Order", "Air Sea Land Email Virus", and "NOTICE OF ACCOUNT CLOSURE FOR AUDIT" are some examples of spam campaigns designed to distribute malicious software.
The emails sent through these large-scale operations are usually disguised as "official", "important", "urgent", and similar. While the primary goal of cyber criminals and scammers is always to generate revenue - the methods of achieving it vary.
Hence, deceptive emails are used not just to proliferate malware, they are also employed to facilitate phishing and other scams.
How did "Santander email virus" infect my computer?
Systems are infected via malicious files spread through spam campaigns. Scam emails can contain download links of such files, or they can be simply attached to the letters.
For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This process begins when a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released prior to 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 risks.
How to avoid installation of malware?
Due to how widespread spam mail is, it is highly recommended to exercise caution with incoming emails. Suspicious and irrelevant letters must not be opened, especially any attachments or links found in them.
However, malware is not proliferated exclusively via spam emails. Malicious programs are also distributed through untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal activation ("cracking") tools, and fraudulent updates.
Therefore, it is advised to perform downloads 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 and user safety, it is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed and kept up-to-date. These programs have to be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.
If you've already opened "Santander email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.
Text presented in the "Santander" scam email letter:
Subject: Riconferma coordinate bancarie
si prega di confermare le coordinate bancarie nel documento d'ordine allegato.
Un cliente ci ha chiesto di effettuare un bonifico SEPA sul conto bancario indicato.
Santander Consumer Bank Spa
Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via "Santander" spam campaign ("Proforma.exe" filename):
Appearance of Santander-themed spam email spreading Agent Tesla RAT:
Text presented within:
Subject: Bank Payment Notice! (Santander Mexico)
For your information:
This payment advice is issued at the request of our client.
your corporate bank account ending in ***** has been credited with an internal payment
Please see the attached payment document for details.
Álvaro Obregón, Mexico
SWIFT code: BMSXMXMMXXX
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:
- What is Santander 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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