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

Also Known As: Cobalt Strike malware
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is "Kaseya email virus"?

"Kaseya email virus" is the name of a malware-spreading spam campaign. The term "spam campaign" is used to describe a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent.

The letters distributed through this campaign urge recipients to install an update from "Microsoft" to fix a vulnerability present in Kaseya customers' networks. Kaseya are legitimate developers of software designed to manage networks, systems, and information technology infrastructure.

It must be emphasized that these scam emails are in no way associated with either Kaseya Limited or the Microsoft Corporation. This spam campaign aims to exploit the 2021 July ransomware incident that affected Kaseya and its customers.

These fake letters proliferate the Cobalt Strike malicious program, which possesses data-stealing abilities and can cause chain infections.

Kaseya malware-spreading email spam campaign

"Kaseya" scam email in detail

The fake "Kaseya" emails (subject/title "Our Shipping Renewal INS734267495"; may vary) request recipients to install an update from "Microsoft". This "update" will supposedly protect users from ransomware infections.

The "update" is necessary as it will address the vulnerability in Kaseya. However, once executed, the malicious file ("SecurityUpdates.exe"; may vary) triggers download/installation of Cobalt Strike malware.

Cobalt Strike malware functionalities

As mentioned in the introduction, the main functions of Cobalt Strike are data theft and download/installation of additional malware. To elaborate, features of the former category include keylogging (i.e., recording of keystrokes) and file extraction from the infected device.

Typically, cyber criminals seek to obtain victims' personally identifiable details, browsing activity, various account/platform log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, email addresses, usernames, and passwords), business-related data, financial information (e.g., banking account details, credit card numbers, etc.), and other sensitive content.

Cobalt Strike can also infect systems with ransomware, trojans, cryptocurrency miners, and other malicious software. Hence, the threats posed by this malware are extensive.

To summarize, by trusting the "Kaseya" scam emails, users can experience multiple system infections, serious privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft.

If it is suspected or known that Cobalt Strike (or other malware) has already infected the system, it is crucial to immediately remove it using anti-virus software.

Threat Summary:
Name Cobalt Strike malware
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Scam emails urge recipients to fix a vulnerability by installing an update.
Attachment(s) SecurityUpdates.exe (filename may vary)
Detection Names Avast (Win32:CrypterX-gen [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.37199125), ESET-NOD32 (Win32/Rozena.AFJ), Kaspersky (HackTool.Win32.Cobalt.aif), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/Vigorf.A), 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 Cobalt Strike
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

"ATLAS AL SHARQ TRADING Email Virus", "COSCO Shipping Email Virus", "Santander Email Virus", and "Contech Email Virus" are some examples of spam campaigns distributing malware.

The emails sent through these mass-scale operations are usually presented as "urgent", "priority", "important", and/or disguised as messages from genuine companies, organizations, institutions, authorities, service providers, and other entities. Aside from malicious software proliferation, spam mail is also used to facilitate phishing and different types of scams.

Due to how widespread deceptive mail is, it is highly recommended to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How did "Kaseya email virus" infect my computer?

Spam campaigns spread malware via infectious files distributed through them. The scam emails can contain download links of such files, or they can be attached to the letters.

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

For example, Microsoft Office documents infect systems by executing malicious macro commands. This process starts 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 editing/content (i.e., macro commands).

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid infecting the system via spam mail, it is advised against opening suspicious and irrelevant emails - especially any attachments or links found in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Malware is also proliferated through untrustworthy download sources (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools, and fake updates.

It is crucial to only download from official and verified channels. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers.

It is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. Furthermore, this software has to be used to run regular system scans and remove detected threats. If you've already opened "Kaseya email virus" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Kaseya" scam email letter:

Subject: Our Shipping Renewal INS734267495

Thanks guys


Guys please install the update from microsoft to protect against ransomware as soon as possible. This is fixing a vulnerability in Kaseya.




Kind Regards
Graham Widdowson
Branch Manager


GSO Business Park
Building 2
Barbana Road
East Kilbride
G74 5PG


Tel +44 1355 599800
Dir +44 1355 599810
Fa +44 1355 599801
Mob +44 7590 803057
mailto: gwiddowson@grenke.co.uk

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

Kaseya email virus attachment detections (SecurityUpdates.exe - filename)

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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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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