Avoid losing your email account via fake "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" emails

Also Known As: SYSTEM NOTIFICATION phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What is "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" email scam?

"SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" is the name of an email spam campaign. We found two practically identical variants of these emails. Both operate as phishing scams; they attempt to trick recipients into disclosing their email account log-in credentials by claiming that several messages have not reached the inbox and will be deleted soon - unless action is taken.

SYSTEM NOTIFICATION scam email variant

"SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" email scam overview

The two versions of these spam emails - "Warning: [recipient_email_address] Server and firewal security system upgrade" and "System Notification" (subject names may vary) - are incredibly similar. The fake notifications inform recipients that two emails have gotten stuck (did not reach the inbox) due to a system error.

Within 24 hours, deletion of these unreceived messages will occur. The spam letters indicate that this process can be prevented by clicking "Receive Delayed Messages". When pressed, both variants redirect to a phishing website. This site is presented as an email account sign-in page.

By attempting to log in through this fraudulent webpage - users will expose their email account passwords to the scammers behind this spam campaign. In addition to losing these accounts, victims can have the content registered through the emails - stolen.

To elaborate on how cyber criminals can use such content, then communication platforms (e.g., emails, social networking, social media, etc.) can be employed to spread malware by sharing malicious files/links. Alternatively, the scammers can pretend to be an account's genuine owner and ask their contacts/friends for loans.

Furthermore, finance-related accounts (e.g., online banking, e-commerce, digital wallets, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions and online purchases.

To summarize, by trusting emails like "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" - users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name SYSTEM NOTIFICATION phishing email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Two emails failed to reach the inbox and will be deleted - unless the appropriate actions are taken.
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Spam campaigns in general

We have analyzed countless spam emails; "Salvation Army email scam", "Email Shutdown In Progress", and "Please find attached receipt" are a couple examples of our latest finds that operate as phishing scams.

This mail is used for a wide variety of malicious and illegal purposes. Additionally, these letters are usually presented as "urgent", "important", "priority", etc. They can even be disguised as messages from legitimate service providers, companies, organizations, institutions, and other entities. What is more, spam emails are commonly used to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, etc.).

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam emails can have infectious files attached to or linked inside them (contain links to malicious sites designed to stealthily download/install malware or trick visitors into doing so themselves).

Virulent files can be executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, and so on. Once a malicious file is opened - the infection chain is initiated. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We strongly advise exercising caution with incoming mail. The attachments and links found in suspicious/irrelevant emails and messages - must not be opened, as that may result in a system infection. Additionally, we recommend using Microsoft Office versions released after 2010 - they have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros.

Other malware infection preventative measures include - downloading only from official/verified sources and activating/updating software with tools provided by legitimate developers (since illegal activation tools "cracks" and fake updates can contain malware).

We must emphasize the importance of having a reputable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security programs must be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats and issues. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in one variant of the "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" emails:

Subject: Warning: ******* Server and firewal security system upgrade




Email :  *******     

Attention : ******* ,

You have 2 unreceived emails that are stuck on the  *******  server.

Server will automatically delete the emails within 24 hours from 5/7/2022 9:04:39 p.m. .

This was due to a system error. Rectify below now

Receive Delayed Messages

Screenshot of "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" alternative variant:

SYSTEM NOTIFICATION scam email another variant

Text presented in this variant:

Subject: System Notification




Your 2 unreceived emails are stuck on the  *******  server.
The Server will automatically delete the emails 24 hours from 3/21/2022 .

This was due to a system error. Rectify below

Receive Delayed Messages

Screenshot of the phishing website promoted by the "SYSTEM NOTIFICATION" spam campaign:

SYSTEM NOTIFICATION scam email promoted phishing site

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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?

Cyber criminals distribute spam emails in mass-scale operations; hence, thousands of users receive identical letters. This mail is not personal.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by this spam email, what should I do?

If you provided account credentials - immediately change the passwords of all potentially exposed accounts and inform their official support. And if you disclosed other private data (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - contact corresponding authorities without delay.

I have read a spam email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?

No, merely opening a spam email will not initiate malware download/installation. Infection processes are triggered when the attachments or links present in these emails are opened/clicked.

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

Whether an infection chain was jumpstarted might depend on the file's format. If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) - most likely, yes - your system was infected. However, if it was a document (.pdf, .doc, .xls, etc.) - you may have avoided inadvertently beginning malware download/installation processes. These formats can require additional user interaction (e.g., enabling macro commands) to infect a device.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate nearly all known malware infections. However, performing a complete system scan is paramount - as high-end malicious programs tend to hide deep within systems.

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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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