It's better to call ahead before sending malware, Symantec finds

French-speaking organizations are receiving bogus calls asking them to check an invoice, which is actually malware

Hackers are finding it pays to call ahead before sending malware-laden email.

Symantec has seen what it describes as a sophisticated social engineering campaign aimed at French-speaking accounting and finance department employees. The victim is called and asked in French if they can process an invoice sent by email.

The style of attack, known as "spear phishing," has been used against French organizations, including subsidiaries in Romania and Luxembourg.

"There is evidence to suggest that these attacks began as early as February 2013, however, it was only more recently in April that phone calls were being placed prior to sending the victim the phishing email," Symantec wrote on its blog.

The attackers obtain the victim's phone number and email -- both pieces of information that are generally easy to find. Their targets would have access to sensitive financial information, and handling invoices would be part of their normal course of business.

"Since handling invoices is something they would do on a regular basis, this lure has the potential to be quite convincing," Symantec wrote. "Each element of this attack requires careful planning and contributes to the overall success rate of the attack."

The email contains either a malicious link or an attachment, which is malware. Symantec said the attached program is a variant of "W32.Shadesrat," which is a remote access Trojan that hackers use to steal information from a computer.

Shadesrat can steal passwords and conduct distributed denial-of-service attacks, according to a writeup from Symantec from 2011.

Shadesrat can be licensed for US$40 to $100 a year, Symantec said.

The company said the attackers may have just limited information on their targets and recommended those receiving a call ask additional questions to verify the caller is legitimate. Sensitive information should also be encrypted.

"Organizations also need to be aware that personally identifiable employee information that exists outside of your enterprise, even in the form of an invoice, can be used against you if a business associate becomes compromised," Symantec wrote.

Send news tips and comments to Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags symantecsecurityExploits / vulnerabilitiesmalware

More about Symantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place