Email purporting to be from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) claims that you have received a secure message and should open an attached file to retrieve the message.
The email is not from DFAT and the attachment does not contain a secure message. The attached Microsoft Word document contains a malicious macro that, if allowed to run, can download and install malware on your computer. If you receive one of these emails, do not open any attachments or click any links that it contains.
Subject: You have received a Secure Message
From: DFAT Gov Au <Secure.Message@dfat-gov.com>
According to this email, which claims to be from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), you have received a secure message. The message suggests that you can retrieve your secure message by opening an attachment. The attached file is a seemingly harmless Microsoft Word document.
However, the email is certainly not from DFAT and the attachment does not contain any legitimate message, secure or otherwise. Instead, the attached Word document contains a malicious macro designed to install malware on your computer.
When you attempt to open the attachment, you will be prompted to click “enable macros”, supposedly so that the document’s contents can be properly decrypted.
But, instead of decrypting the document as you expect, the macro will instead connect to a website and download and install malware. The exact type of malware downloaded may vary. Malicious macros are often used to infect computers with ransomware. Once installed, ransomware can lock the files on your computer and then demand that you pay a fee to online criminals to obtain a decryption key. In other cases, the malware that the macro installs may be designed to steal sensitive information such as banking login credentials from the infected computer.
Unless you have a specific need to use macros and are aware of their potential security risks, it would be best to leave them disabled by default. For those that might not be aware, a “macro” in this context is a set of commands and instructions that can be collected as a single command in order to quickly and automatically accomplish a task. You can read more about macros and their dangers in this earlier Hoax-Slayer report.
DFAT has published a warning about this attack on its website, which notes:
DFAT is aware of a current email scam with the subject line You have received a Secure Message.
The harmful email is being distributed under a dfat-gov.org.au name.
The word document attached contains a virus. People receiving this email should immediately delete it. Do not open the attachment.
DFAT will only ever send email from the official DFAT.gov.au address.
Last updated: December 17, 2016
First published: December 17, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen
Importance NoticeAfter considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.
These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.
Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.
And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.
When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.
I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.
A Big Thank YouI would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.
I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.
Closing DateHoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.
Thank you, one and all!