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How to recognize malicious emails like TurboTax?

Also Known As: TurboTax spam
Damage level: Severe

What is TurboTax email virus?

This email is disguised as a letter regarding TurboTax Christmas offers. Cybercriminals use it to deliver Dridex banking malware. Their goal is to trick recipients into opening a malicious attachment.

TurboTax email virus malware-spreading email spam campaign

TurboTax malicious email in detail

Cybercriminals behind this email claim that recipients can increase their tax refund before the new year using offers provided in the attached "highlights098098.xls.xls" document (the document name may vary). The file attached to this email is designed to infect computers with Dridex as soon as macros commands (editing/content) are enabled in it.

Dridex is banking malware targeting banking account credentials. It steals them by logging keystrokes. This feature allows it to obtain any information entered using a keyboard. Additionally, Dridex can execute remote commands and make changes in the behavior of the installed software.

Threat Summary:
Name TurboTax spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Recipients can use offers from TurboTax to increase their tax refunds
Attachment(s) highlights098098.xls (its name may vary)
Detection Names Avast (Other:Malware-gen [Trj]), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.GenericKD.47530740), ESET-NOD32 (DOC/TrojanDownloader.Agent.DOG), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.MSOffice.SAgent.gen), Microsoft (TrojanDownloader:O97M/Dridex.SS!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 Dridex
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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Malicious emails in general

Cybercriminals behind emails of this type pretend to be legitimate companies, organizations, or other entities. They include malicious links or attachments in their emails. A couple of examples of emails containing malware are "BBB Email Virus", "BBVA Bank Email Virus", "Cosco Shipping Bank Email Virus".

How did "TurboTax email virus" infect my computer?

The file attached to this email (a malicious Excel document named "highlights098098.xls.xls") asks for permission to enable macros commands (editing/content). It cannot infect computers until they are enabled. It is important to mention that MS Office versions released before 2010 do not open malicious documents in Protected View mode.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Do not trust irrelevant emails containing attachments, website links. Especially when such emails are sent from suspicious addresses. Use tools provided by official developers to update/activate the installed software. Use official pages to download files or programs. Have a reputable security solution installed on a computer and keep it up to date.

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

Text presented in the TurboTax email letter:

Subject: Christmas offers: Dependents and Child Tax Credit

intuit
turbotax
[Sign in]
TurboTax offers | Christmas offers
How to increase your next tax refund before the new year
[LEARN MORE]

2021 may be coming to an end, but your tax savings are just starting!

Read best offers attached!

Malicious attachment distributed via TurboTax spam campaign:

Malicious attachment distributed through TurboTax email

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:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing 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.

Email-virus icon 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.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

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:

Example of an email spam

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Usually, cybercriminals use email databases obtained after data breaches (or other circumstances) to deliver malware. These emails are never personal.

I have downloaded and opened a file attached to this email, is my computer infected?

The file attached to this email is an Excel document that infects computers with Dridex only after enabling macros commands. If you have opened that file and enabled editing/content, your computer is already infected.

I have read the email but did not open the attachment, is my computer infected?

If that file has not been opened (and macros commands in it has not been enabled), then a computer is not infected.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections that were present in email attachment?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can remove almost all known malicious programs. Sophisticated (high-end) malicious programs can hide deep in the operating system. Thus, they cannot be detected without running a full system scan.

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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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