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Security Response

Ebola fear used as bait, leads to malware infection

Ebola news is bait for attackers to steal login credentials and install Trojan.Zbot, Trojan.Blueso, W32.Spyrat, and Backdoor.Breut malware.
Created: 15 Aug 2014 19:24:03 GMT • Updated: 18 Aug 2014 19:13:52 GMT • Translations available: 简体中文, 繁體中文, Português, Español
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News of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has hit every news outlet around the globe, and cybercriminals are once again using the latest headlines to bait victims. Symantec has observed three malware operations and a phishing campaign using the Ebola virus as a social engineering theme.

Malware and phishing campaigns
The first campaign is fairly simple. Attackers send out an email with a fake report on the Ebola virus to entice victims and what users actually get is an infection of the Trojan.Zbot malware.

In the second campaign, cybercriminals send out an email that impersonates Etisalat, a telecommunications service provider in the United Arab Emirates with footprints in 18 countries across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The email claims to offer a high-level presentation on the Ebola virus. An attached zip file with the title "EBOLA – ETISALAT PRESENTATION.pdf.zip" actually executes Trojan.Blueso on the victim's computer.

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Figure 1. Ebola email campaign using Trojan.Blueso

Interestingly, the executed Trojan is not the final payload. The malware is also crafted to inject W32.Spyrat into the victim’s Web browser and allows attackers to perform the following actions:

  • Log key strokes
  • Record from the Web cam
  • Capture screenshots
  • Create processes
  • Open Web pages
  • Enumerate files and folders
  • Delete files and folders
  • Download and upload files
  • Gather details on installed applications, the computer, and OS
  • Uninstall itself

The third campaign piggybacks on some fresh Ebola news. In the last two weeks there has been talk of Zmapp, a promising Ebola drug still in an experimental stage. The crooks entice their victims with an email claiming the Ebola virus has been cured and the news should be shared widely. The email attachment is Backdoor.Breut malware.

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Figure 2. Malicious email entices users with fake Ebola cure

And last is a phishing campaign that impersonates CNN with breaking Ebola news (with some terrorism thrown in). It gives a brief story outline and includes links to an "untold story". The email also promises "How-to" precaution information and a list "targeted" regions.

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Figure 3. Phishing campaign uses CNN’s brand as bait

If the user clicks on the links in the email they are sent to a Web page, asked to select an email provider, and asked to input their login credentials. If the user performs this action, their email login credentials will be sent directly to phishers. The victim is redirected to the real CNN home page.

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Figure 4. Phishers steal login details with fake login page

Symantec advises all users to be on guard for unsolicited, unexpected, or suspicious emails. If you are not sure of the email’s legitimacy then don’t respond to it, and avoid clicking on links in the message or opening attachments.

Symantec customers that use the Symantec.Cloud service are protected from spam messages used to deliver malware. For the best possible protection, Symantec customers should also ensure they use the latest Symantec technologies incorporated into our consumer and enterprise solutions.