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Avoid infecting your device via fake "COSCO Shipping" emails

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

What is the "COSCO Shipping email virus"?

"COSCO Shipping email virus" is the name of a spam campaign proliferating the Agent Tesla RAT (Remote Access Trojan). The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent.

The letters spread through this campaign are disguised as business-related messages from COSCO Shipping Lines - a Chinese international container transportation and shipping company. It must be emphasized that these emails are in no way associated with the genuine COSCO company, nor is any information provided by them true.

This spam mail aims to infect recipients' systems with Agent Tesla malware. This malicious program is classified as a RAT since it can enable remote access and control over infected machines. Trojans of this type can have a wide variety of heinous abilities; hence, the threats posed by these programs are especially broad.

COSCO Shipping malware-spreading email spam campaign

"COSCO Shipping" scam emails in detail

The fake "COSCO Shipping" emails (subject/title "Read and Reply , Top Urgent"; may vary) claim to have received the recipient's contact information from another source. Supposedly, the recipient is being contacted with a business proposal. The scam letters are concluded with "company details".

The email attachment allegedly contains potential order information and the sender's fake company profile. When the attached file is opened - Agent Tesla RAT's download/installation is triggered.

Agent Tesla malware functionalities

Agent Tesla is designed to allow its users to gain access and control over infected devices. Its primary function is data theft.

This trojan can extract information from the compromised system and installed browsers, email clients, messengers, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), FTP (File Transfer Protocol) clients, and download managers. Agent Tesla also has keylogging abilities, i.e., it can record keystrokes.

Data of interest includes (but is not limited to): system information, browsing activity, Internet cookies, Wi-Fi credentials, account/platform usernames and passwords, personally identifiable details, and finance-related information (e.g., bank account details, credit card numbers), and so on.

Other notable features of this RAT include: taking screenshots; disabling Windows User Account Controls, Control Panel, and Folder Options in Windows Explorer; preventing access to Windows Task Manager, Command Prompt (cmd.exe), System Registry, and Windows system restore options.

To summarize, by trusting the "COSCO Shipping" scam emails, users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft. If it is suspected or known that Agent Tesla RAT (or other malware) has already infected the device - an anti-virus must be used to remove it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Agent Tesla RAT
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Emails are presented as business proposals
Disguise Scam emails are disguised as letters from COSCO Shipping
Attachment(s) Scan Document pdf.7z archive containing a malicious executable (filenames may vary)
Detection Names Avast (Win32:PWSX-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKDZ.76130), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of MSIL/Kryptik.ABRT), Malwarebytes (Trojan.Crypt.MSIL), Microsoft (Trojan:MSIL/AgentTesla!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
Rogue Process Name ExpenseManager (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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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Spam campaigns in general

"URGENT INFORMATION ON COVID-19 VACCINATION", "Olmetex Email Virus", "Santander Email Virus", "Contract Agreement", and "Contech Email Virus" are some examples of malware-proliferating spam campaigns.

The emails sent through these large-scale operations are usually disguised as "official", "urgent", "priority", and "important". Aside from spreading malicious software, spam letters are also used to facilitate phishing and other scams.

Regardless of what this mail promises, offers, or demands - its sole goal is to generate revenue at recipients' expense

How did "COSCO Shipping email virus" infect my computer?

Systems are infected via virulent files distributed through spam campaigns. These files can be attached to the emails, or they contain download links of such content.

Infectious files can be in various formats, e.g., archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, and so forth. When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection chain (i.e., malware download/installation) is jumpstarted.

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. Instead, users can manually enable editing/content (i.e., macro commands), and they are warned of the potential risks.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid infecting the system via spam mail, it is important to always exercise caution with incoming emails. Suspicious and irrelevant email letters must not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Malware is also spread through 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 fraudulent updates.

Therefore, it is advised to only download from official and verified sources. Additionally, all programs 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 suite installed and kept up-to-date. Furthermore, this software has to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats and issues.

If you've already opened "COSCO Shipping email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the fake "COSCO Shipping" email letter:

Subject: Read and Reply , Top Urgent

 

Hi,

 

Our Ref Mrs Clementine Molin of Hanseatic P&I, has given us your contact info,so we are contacting you regarding our proposed order.

 

We have attached our company profile full style and proposal for business.

 

We expect your reply within 3 days.

 

Thanks

 

Warm Regards,

 

Azira (Ms.)

 

COSCO SHIPPING LINES (M) SDN BHD

 

GST REGISTRATION : 000361324544

 

The Pinnacle, M Floor, Persiaran Lagoon, Bandar Sunway,

 

46150  Petaling Jaya,  Selangor  Darul  Ehsan,  Malaysia.

 

H.LINE : +60 (3) 5624 4188  l  D.Line : +60 (3) 5624 4121 l Fax : +60(3) 5624 4001 / 02 / 03

 

Email   : azira@coscon.com     Website   :   www.coscon.com

 

** WORKING HOURS [MONDAY – FRIDAY->8.30AM TO 5.30PM]

 

***LUNCH HOUR [12.30PM TO 1.30PM]

 

DISCLAIMER:
This e-mail is confidential for COSCO SHIPPING Lines Co.,Ltd (COSCO SHIPPING Lines) and may also be privileged.

 

Any unauthorized use, copying, or dissemination of it and any attachments to it, is prohibited.

 

If you have received this e-mail in error, please delete it immediately, unread and notify the sender as soon as possible.

 

COSCO SHIPPING Lines does not warrant this email is virus-free and is not liable for any losses or responsibilities arising from any virus being transmitted by this email.

 

Internet communications are not secure and COSCO SHIPPING Lines does not accept legal responsibility for the contents of this message.

Appearance of the "COSCO Shipping" scam email (GIF):

COSCO Shipping scam email appearance (GIF)

Screenshot of VirusTotal detections of the malicious attachment distributed via "COSCO Shipping" spam campaign:

COSCO Shipping email virus attachment detections on VirusTotal

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

COSCO Shipping email virus attachment process on Task Manager (ExpenseManager - 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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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.

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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