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Three Malware Distribution Methods You REALLY Need to Know About

by Brett M. Christensen

An earlier version of this story was first published on October 10, 2014

Criminals use many ways to distribute malware. However,  among such tactics, they repeatedly use variations of the following three methods in their malware email campaigns.

Fake Invoices and Order Notifications

These emails purport to be order notifications or invoices for a product or service that you recently purchased. The emails claim that you can read more details about the supposed purchase by clicking a link or opening an attached file.

The criminals who send these fake invoices are hoping that you will be panicked into installing the malware because you believe that your credit card has been used to conduct fraudulent transactions.

Failed Package Delivery Notifications

These emails claim that a courier or postal service was unable to deliver a package to you because of an addressing issue. The emails instruct you to click a link or open an attached file to print out a shipping address or review parcel pickup information.

The names of several high profile delivery companies and postal services around the world have been used in versions of this malware attack.

Legal Threats

These emails may claim that you are facing legal action for unpaid debts or are about to be charged with a serious offence.

Some may purport to be from law enforcement agencies such as the FBI or government entities such as your country’s tax department.

Others may claim that a complaint has been made against you by a company or individual and you must quickly respond to avoid serious legal consequences.

The emails claim that you can get more information by clicking a link or opening an attachment.

Malware Hides on Compromised Websites or In Attached Files

All three of these methods use similar ways of getting malware on your computer. The links lead to compromised websites that harbour the malware. The email attachments contain the malware inside.

The specific malware payload may vary in different versions. But, rest assured, regardless of what it actually does, it’s likely to be nasty and certainly not something you want to have on your computer.

Protecting Yourself

Of course, these three methods are certainly not the only ways scammers distribute malware. But, committing these common methods to memory will certainly help you recognize and protect against a range of malware attacks. And, knowing about these three may help you recognize malware attacks in general, even if they don’t fit into one of the above methods.

In fact, you should always be cautious of clicking links or opening attachments in any unsolicited emails.

A good anti-malware scanner is another essential tool for stopping Internet nasties in their tracks. It should work alongside your anti-virus software and other security tools.

At Hoax-Slayer, we use and recommend Malwarebytes. The Malwarebytes Anti-Malware scanner can detect and remove worms, trojans, rootkits, spyware, and other nasties.  

Importance Notice

After 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 You

I 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 Date

Hoax-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!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer