Terror alert spam detected by Symantec in the wild

Cybercriminals impersonate law enforcement officials in Dubai, Bahrain, Turkey, and Canada to send terror alert spam and serve RATs.

No Doubts, cyber criminals are jackals always ready to exploit any event in the headlines, even the most dramatic incidents. We have assisted in the past many cases in which crooks exploited the media attention on news events, such as the mysterious skyjacking of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 or the incident occurred at the AirAsia flight QZ8501.

News of the day is that people from several countries, including Canada, Dubai, Bahrain and Turkey, have received fake "terror alert" emails. According to Symantec, the bogus notifications advise recipients reading the mail to keep them and their families and company secured from an imminent attack.

Fake terror alert messages phishing

The specific campaign leveraged on malicious emails with two attachments which according to the content in the mail is a brief on measures to adopt to remain secure. One of the attachment is in reality a document containing indications on the measured to adopt, the second one is a malware used to infect the victim's computer.

The malicious code is a multiplatform remote access Trojan (RAT) dubbed Jsocket (Backdoor.Sockrat), a RAT which was developed by the same authors of the AlienSpy RAT.

Fake terror alert messages phishing 2Operators behind the campaign used the signatures from local law enforcement agency's officials in order to trick victims by giving more credibility to the messages.

"Earlier this month, Symantec observed malicious emails spoofing the email address of one United Arab Emirates (UAE) law enforcement agency, particularly the Dubai Police Force. These spear-phishing emails, which read like a warning from the Dubai Police, bank on users' fear of terror attacks to trick them into executing the malicious attachments. The attachments are disguised as valuable security tips that could help recipients to protect themselves, as well as their companies and their families, from potential terror attacks that may occur in their business location." states Symantec in a blog post.

"To add more credibility to the emails, the crooks impersonate the incumbent Dubai Police lieutenant general, who is also the head of general security for the emirate of Dubai, by signing the email with his name."

The experts noticed that the spear phishing messages were well written and all officials used as alleged sender are currently in office.

Another element of interest highlighted by Symantec is represented by the effort spent by threat actors in targeting their victims, for example, the subject in most cases reflects the name of an employee who works for the targeted company. This circumstance leads the expert to believe that attackers have a specific knowledge of their victims.

Symantec experts confirm we may yet see more of these kinds of social engineering tactics preying on real-world fears, be careful!