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New Australia Post Email Scam Targets Thousands Of Social Media Users

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

A new and dangerous Australia Post scam is targeting tens of thousands of online users down under. It was detected by Australia based MailGuard, a privately owned organization; which offers anti-spam, anti-virus & data security services to businesses. The scam targets users via an email and spreads the dangerous ransomware “Locky” which locks the computers of victims who were unfortunate enough to download and run it. The name of Australia Post has been used in scams earlier as well but security experts concede that this particular scam is not only clever but also one of the most dangerous ones currently around.

The modus operandi of the scam is very similar to other frauds of this kind. First of all, users get an email from an address which looks suspiciously similar to the AusPost’s actual email address. The email informs the user about an undelivered package which has arrived for him/her and is currently awaiting collection at the local Australia Post center. The email also instructs the recipients to download and print their shipping information in the attached “shipment confirmation” document and bring it with them while coming to collect the parcel.

As you might have already guessed, the attachment doesn’t contain Australia Post’s shipping document at all; rather it contains the dangerous “Locky” ransomware which gets activated as soon as the users download and run it. The ransomware runs a rather simple JavaScript code but it is powerful enough to the lock the victim’s computer and render it completely useless. Once their computers have been locked, victims won’t be able to access their files or run any programs unless they supply the correct secret code. All they can see is a ransom message from the hackers which instructs them to pay the ransom amount in order to get their computers unlocked.

Unlike other scam emails which contain random information, this particular scam uses information which is highly relevant to the recipient. For instance, the email contains the user’s first and last name, location, company’s name as well as his/her job title. As per MailGuard, scammers are using highly sophisticated scraping software to scrap this information from social media sites. By making the emails highly personal and targeted, scammers are able to get better email opening rates and are also able to lure a large number of people into downloading the ransomware. MailGuard has termed the scam as highly innovative and one of the most sophisticated ransomware scams currently in circulation.

Australia Post has issued its own advisory in response to the scam. The company has advised online users not to click on links or download attachments contained within emails which seem to originate from AusPost. Furthermore, the company added that it always leaves a notice in the letter box in case of missed deliveries and users are free to call their local AusPost centers to verify the genuineness of a correspondence notice or email pertaining to an undelivered package. The scam once again demonstrates how scammers are coming up with highly innovative scams and are piggybacking the popularity of the big companies in order to spread dangerous programs.

October 16, 2016

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