Online criminals long ago realized that the simplest ruses are often the most effective. The malware email I discuss in this report is a good example of such a simple approach.
The email has a subject line pertaining to a payslip and a brief message about a missed payment in the body. What looks like a Microsoft Excel file is attached. That’s it. That’s all there is.
A screenshot of the malware email:
Let’s build a scenario
1: It’s a very busy day at the office. Your inbox is overloaded. You’re trying to deal with constant interruptions and demands on your time while attempting to verify client applications. You’re tired, stressed, and overworked.
2. Your inbox pings and you see an email about a payslip along with a vague reference to a missed payment. In your flustered state, you mistakenly believe that the email contains the information you’ve been waiting for regarding a new client application. So, without much thought, you click the attachment, which appears to contain a Microsoft Excel document.
4. A popup window claims that the document is “protected” and you must tick a security setting to enable access. Distracted by a buzzing phone, you do so.
5. A generic Excel document now opens. But, meanwhile, a malicious macro downloads and installs malware on your computer.
The malware now locks up the files on your company’s computers and demands that you pay a ransom to restore access to them. Or the malware may work in the background collecting sensitive information such as account passwords that will allow criminals to take control of your company’s computers and steal sensitive information at will.
Malware Infections Can Happen In Seconds
All of this can happen in just a few seconds.
Of course, there are countless variations of the above scenario. Many versions of the scam emails try to trick you into visiting a malicious website rather than opening an attached file. They use many different cover stories to get people to click. They reference many different software applications, online services, or companies.
How to protect yourself
So, how do you protect yourself from such attacks?
By all means, use antivirus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. Keep your operating system, browsers, and other software up to date as well. That’s important, for sure!
But, above all, makes sure that you are thoroughly familiar with how online crooks operate so that you can instantly recognize their attacks, even if you are busy, tired and stressed.
The best virus protection of all is that lump of grey matter nestled between your ears.