Cybersecurity experts discovered a new phishing email campaign using sneaky malware, tricking unsuspecting victims into opening tax-related attachments.
The “TACTICAL#OCTOPUS” scam campaign targets US users with tax-themed phishing emails, with a password-protected zip file hiding malware that compromises a device. The malicious software is said to feature antivirus evasion tactics and command and control (C2) channels, which can steal valuable data.
As security researchers at Securonix Threat Labs states, the ongoing cyberthreat is expected to continue until the end of the tax season in the US on April 18, and hackers show “no sign of slowing down.” Gmail and Outlook users are warned to keep an eye out for any suspicious emails with attachments, especially in tax-related emails.
Threat actors lure unsuspecting victims with dodgy attachments disguised as employee W-2 tax documents, I-9 and real estate purchase contracts. The documents also use tax-related words such as “TitleContractDocs.zip” or “JRCLIENTCOPY3122.zip.” Once the user extracts the .zip file contents and double-clicks the file (a shortcut .Ink file) disguised as a .pdf file, the malicious code executes.
“Once code execution begins, a series of VBScript and PowerShell stagers pull further payloads from the C2 server,” Securonix states.
The report doesn’t state if any users have fallen victim to the malicious TACTICAL#OCTOPUS scam email campaign, but claims the security team will continue to monitor the situation. Seeing as it allows threat actors to steal important data on your device, this is a scam to be aware of.
How to stop phishing emails
Defending against nasty phishing emails will help keep personal and financial information safe from prying eyes. Hackers often use scam emails to dupe unsuspecting victims into downloading malware or sending them private information via PDF attachment, and the Octopus attack campaign is no different. It’s good to know that PDF files can have a virus or malware.
Here are a few ways to stop spam emails.
Use antivirus software to block malicious email
As Securonix Threat Labs claims, the TACTICAL#OCTOPUS phishing scam campaign uses malware with AV evasion tactics. While this makes it trickier for antivirus software to find, it’s still a good idea to use one of the best antivirus software to stop it in its tracks.
Many high-standard AV protection offer near-perfect scores when it comes to detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed.
Emails can contain harmful links or attachments filled with malware, which you never want on your device. The good news is you can let one of the best antivirus software services do all the legwork for you, as they have security and privacy features to protect your email accounts.
Services such as Avast One, McAfee, Norton, and more have email protection tools that block malicious links and attachments. To make sure spam email stops any malware damaging your device, or to keep you safe from threat actors hacking your phone through texting and more, make sure to set yourself up with an antivirus.
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How to block scam email in Gmail
evoke even more spam crowding your inbox. If you are aware of an email address consistently sending spam, you can block the email address in Gmail.
- Open Gmail on your device.
- In your inbox, check the box beside the spam email of the sender you wish to block.
- Click the three vertical dots located at the top bar of your inbox.
- Click Filter messages like these.
- In the pop-up window, select Create filter.
- Check the Delete it box and click Create filter.
When the email address tries to send you mail, it will automatically be deleted. Find out more with our how to block spam email in Gmail guide.
How to block scam email in Outlook
- Open Microsoft Outlook on your device.
- Right-click the email of the address your wish to block.
- Select Block and click Block sender.
The email address will no longer be able to send you spam. For more on how to block spam email in Outlook, we’ve got you covered.