After losing your email account via fake "DNS Error" emails

Also Known As: "DNS Error" phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "DNS Error"?

After inspecting the "DNS Error" email, we determined that it is spam. It states that several messages sent by the user have failed to reach the intended recipients due to a DNS error. This mail promotes a phishing website seeking email log-in credentials by disguising it as a way to address the fake mail delivery issue.

DNS Error email spam campaign

"DNS Error" email scam overview

The spam email with the subject "There are two (2) undelivered messages to your mailbox [recipient's_email_address]" (may vary) informs the recipient that some of the messages they sent failed delivery. Their mailbox has encountered a DNS error on the server.

The letter states that the incoming/outgoing emails that were not delivered will be deleted from the server soon. The recipient is urged to take action and clear the DNS cache so the messages can succeed in their delivery.

As mentioned in the introduction, the information provided by this email is fake, and it is not associated with any legitimate service providers.

Pressing the "Take Action" button results in a redirect to a phishing website, imitating an email sign-in page. Log-in credentials entered into this site are recorded and sent to scammers. Emails can contain a variety of incredibly sensitive data, which could be used for blackmail or other nefarious purposes. However, more risks are associated with the theft of a mail account.

Emails are used to register other content; hence, through a hijacked mail – cyber criminals may also gain control over linked accounts and platforms.

To expand upon the potential abuse of the unauthorized access, scammers can steal the identities of account owners (e.g., emails, social networking, social media, messages, etc.) and ask the contacts/friends/followers for loans or donations, promote scams, and proliferate malware.

Furthermore, cyber criminals can use stolen finance-related accounts (e.g., money transferring, e-commerce, digital wallets, online banking, etc.) to make fraudulent transactions or online purchases.

In summary, by trusting an email like "DNS Error" – users may experience serious privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.

If you have already entered your log-in credentials into a phishing webpage – immediately change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and contact their official support.

Threat Summary:
Name "DNS Error" phishing email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Emails failed delivery due to a DNS error on the server.
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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Phishing spam campaign examples

"Wells Fargo - Account Verification Required", "Request To Cancel Your Services", and "Your Password Changed" are just a couple examples of phishing campaigns we have investigated recently.

Spam mail is used to promote a wide variety of scams and even to distribute malware. These emails gain the trust of recipients through various false claims, e.g., ones relating to failed email delivery, suspicious activity detections, security upgrades, password changes, new services, account deletion requests, etc.

While spam emails are often plain and riddled with grammatical/spelling errors, they can also be competently made and believably disguised as messages from genuine entities (e.g., service providers, companies, authorities, etc.).

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cyber criminals commonly use spam campaigns to spread malware. These emails/messages can have virulent files attached to or linked inside them. The files can be documents (PDF, Microsoft Office, Microsoft OneNote, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), JavaScript, and so forth.

Merely opening an infectious file can be enough to trigger the malware download/installation chain. Yet some formats need additional user interaction to jumpstart these processes. For example, Microsoft Office files require users to enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content), while OneNote documents need them to click embedded files/links.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is essential to treat incoming emails and other messages with caution. Attachments or links found in dubious/irrelevant mail must not be opened, as they can be harmful or infectious.

However, malware is not distributed only via spam mail. Therefore, we recommend vigilance while browsing, as fraudulent and malicious online content usually appears legitimate and innocuous.

Another recommendation is to download only from official and verified channels. All programs must be activated and updated using functions/tools provided by genuine developers, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updates may contain malware.

It is paramount for device and user safety to have a dependable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security software must be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats/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 the "DNS Error" spam email letter:

Subject: There are two (2) undelivered messages to your mailbox ********

Attn: ********,

Some emails you sent did not reach the recipients.

Your mailbox ********. has encountered a DNS error on the server.

The failed incoming/outgoing emails will be deleted from the mail server soon.

Take action below to clear your mailbox DNS cache and have your emails delivered.

Take Action

This email is system auto generated. Do not reply to this email.

Email Server Administrator @ ********

Powered by ******** HTMLemail.

Click to Unsubscribe

Screenshot of the phishing website promoted by the "DNS Error" spam campaign:

DNS Error scam email promoted phishing site

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT 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?

Spam emails are not personal, even if they include details relevant to the recipients. These messages are distributed in massive operations – hence, thousands of users receive identical emails.

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

If you have provided your account credentials – immediately change the passwords of all potentially exposed accounts and inform their official support. However, if the disclosed information was of a different personal nature (e.g., passport photos/scans, ID card details, credit/debit card numbers, etc.) – contact the appropriate authorities without delay.

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

Devices are infected when malicious attachments or links are opened/clicked; reading an email poses no infection threat.

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

Whether the system was infected might depend on the format of the opened file. If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) – the device most likely was infected, as these files cause infections almost without fail. However, you might have avoided this if it was a document (.doc, .xls, .one, .pdf, etc.). These formats can require additional actions to begin downloading/installing malware (e.g., enabling macro commands, clicking embedded content, etc.).

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate most of the known malware infections. It must be stressed that since sophisticated malicious programs usually hide deep within systems – running a complete system scan is crucial.

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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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