Avoid infecting your device with malware via fake "Santander" emails

Also Known As: LokiBot virus
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

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.

Santander malware-spreading email spam campaign

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 Summary:
Name LokiBot virus
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.
Payload LokiBot
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.
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"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.

Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, and so forth. When these files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection process is jumpstarted.

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




Ciao cliente
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.


Cordiali saluti.
Santander Consumer Bank Spa

Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via "Santander" spam campaign ("Proforma.exe" filename):

Santander email virus attachment detections on VirusTotal (Proforma.exe)

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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