Its tax season and cybercriminals are mass mailing tens of thousands of IRS (Internal Revenue Service) themed emails in an attempt to trick users into thinking that their income tax refund has been “turned down”. Once users click on any of the links found in the malicious emails, they’re automatically exposed to the client-side exploits served by the Black Hole Exploit Kit.
In March 2012, we intercepted an IRS themed malicious campaign that was serving client-side exploits to prospective victims in an attempt to drop malware on the affected hosts.
This week, we intercepted three consecutive campaigns using the exact same email template used in the March campaign. What has changed? Are the cybercriminals behind these campaigns relying on any new tactics, or are they basically sticking to well proven techniques to infect tens of thousands of socially engineered users?
Over the past 24 hours, the cybercriminals behind the campaign resumed mass mailing of the same IRS email template, exposing millions of users to the threats posed by the social engineering driven campaign.
Recently, cybercriminals launched yet another massive spam campaign, this time impersonating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in an attempt to trick tax payers into clicking on a link pointing to a bogus Microsoft Word Document. Once the user clicks on it, they are redirected to a Black Hole exploit kit landing URL, where they’re exposed to the client-side exploits served by the kit.
As tax season rolls around again in the US and UK, it seems like a good time to revisit the perils taxpayers face seemingly every year at around this time.
Phishing attacks against taxpayers are already in full swing — not that they haven’t been going continuously since last year. But this is high season for scams involving Web pages that look like the IRS or HMRC’s own Web site.
Scam messages typically contain dire warnings or outrageously large promises for a refund. The messages often are presented as if they originate from a tax authority, but contain links leading to phishing Web pages, or malicious attached files.
These scam pages typically appear to look exactly like a page on the real IRS or HMRC Web site. If you receive such a message, don’t reply to the sender, don’t email any sensitive information, and don’t follow any link in the message.
The pages promise to automatically transfer a tax refund to the recipient’s bank account, if you only would provide the scam artist with your complete banking, credit card, and personal details.
Getting ready to file your taxes online — and doing it at the last minute? Well, cyber-scammers are ready for you. Thieves are schemers, and they’ve got a bag full of tricks to steal your identity. You might even be doing things to make their job easier. And if you use a PC at work to do your return, identity theft could be as simple as a crook (or an unscrupulous coworker) digging around and finding sensitive files.
One might send you an e-mail that offers a quick refund — or a warning about a problem with your already-filed tax return. Maybe they’ll pitch you with an expert’s review of your tax return, or helpfully offer advice, asking for all the sensitive financial details you’d normally put on your return so they can “look up your account.”
Here are eight tips to stay one step ahead of these virtual pickpockets and protect yourself.
For several months, we’ve been seeing spam and phishing Web sites which purport to be IRS notifications of delinquent non-payment of income taxes. Who can blame the fraudsters — almost no three letter agency of the US government inspires more dread and fear than good old Internal Revenue.
In the UK, the counterpart to the IRS is called Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (or HMRC), even though it is the British government, and not the Queen’s Coldstream Guards, who dutifully stick a fork in the populace to pay up. The income tax filing deadline in the UK (for people who file using paper returns), October 31, is fast approaching. And a stern warning from the Taxman is no laughing matter, no matter where you live. So it was inevitable that we’d see this successful phishing routine repeated elsewhere (and, probably, again as we get closer to the UK’s electronic tax filing deadline, at the end of January).
The phish attempt begins with an email message warning users that they are about to incur penalties for “Unreported/Underreported Income.” In fact, the wording of both the spam email and the phish page are virtually identical on both the IRS and HMRC versions. The email links to a formal-looking Web page, which contains the officious message “Filing and paying your federal taxes correctly and on time is an important part of living and working in the United Kingdom. Please review (download and execute) your tax statement.“
Of course, the linked file isn’t a tax statement. It’s a malicious executable, just under 90KB in size, named tax-statement.exe. We classify the files as Trojan-Backdoor-Progdav (other vendors call this spy Zbot), a general-purpose smash-and-grab Trojan designed to give the malware’s distributor total control over the infected machine, mainly for the purpose of aiding identity theft.