‘Payment Declined’ Emails Contain Locky Ransomware

Email purporting to be from a Sales Manager claims that your payment has been declined. It asks that you double check the information in the invoice which is supposedly contained in an attached file.

Brief Analysis:
The email is not from any sales manager, and the claim that a payment has been declined is untrue. The attached .zip file contains a malicious JavaScript file that installs Locky ransomware on your computer. Locky encrypts all of the files on your computer and then demands that you pay a ransom to get a decryption key to unlock them.

Subject: FW: Payment Declined PIN-738609Dear [Name derived from email address],Our finance department has processed your payment, unfortunately it has been declined.

Please, double check the information provided in the invoice (attached to this mail) and confirm your details.

Thank you for understanding.

Stewart Buchanan
Sales Manager

Detailed Analysis:
This email purports to be from a sales manager, but does not identify the sending company. The email claims that the unnamed company’s finance department has processed your payment, but the payment was declined. It asks that you open an attached .zip file and double check the information you provided on the invoice.

However, the email is not from any legitimate company and the claim that a payment has been declined is just a ruse to trick you into opening the attached file without due caution.

If you do open the attached .zip file, you will find that it harbours a JavaScript (.js) file. If you then click on the .js file in the hope of seeing the payment invoice, a malicious JavaScript will run in the background.  The JavaScript will download and install Locky ransomware on your computer.

Once installed, Locky will encrypt all of the important files stored on your computer and rename them with the extension .locky.  A message will then appear on your monitor that states that you must pay a fee in online currency Bitcoin to receive a decryption key to unlock your files. There is no quick or easy way to recover your files unless you have recent off-computer backups.  If you decide to pay the requested fee, you might receive the promised decryption key.  However, since you will be dealing with cybercriminals via the dark web, there is certainly no guarantee that they will honour their promise and give you the key.

Note that details such as the name and title of the supposed staff member, the attachment name, and the reference number included in the subject line may vary in different versions of these malware emails. This attack is very similar to another current malware campaign in which the emails claim that a financial manager has received documents from your bank that you need to review by opening an attached file. As in this version, the attachment contains a JavaScript file that installs Locky.

If you receive one of these emails, just delete it. Do not open any attachments or click any links that it contains.

Locky Ransomware

Last updated: March 15, 2016
First published: March 15, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen
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