Beware: Computer Malware Disguised as WHO Ebola Emails!

Have you received an urgent email from the World Health Organization with important information about the Ebola virus? If so, don't open it! It might actually be a sneaky computer virus designed to infiltrate your machine. Computer security expert Sandra J. Lambert explains.

QDT Editor
November 19, 2014

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Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities, watching for opportunities to create malware that is more likely to infect the computers of the masses. There have been numerous scares over the past few years, including click-through ads on popular sites and gaming extras in apps. Hackers want people to click through so their malware can install on the unsuspecting victim’s computer.

This time around, the Ebola virus is being used as a way to prey on people who are worried about the disease. The computer virus comes in the form of an email with a headline that grabs the attention of fearful individuals, guaranteeing that the email will get opened, introducing the malware.

Some of the currently known headlines include:

  • SHOCKING Health Alert: Secret Cure for Ebola?
  • RE: Ebola Survival Guide
  • What you need to know about the deadly Ebola outbreak
  • HEALTH NEWS: Secret Cure for Ebola?
  • Is there ANY way to cure Ebola?
  • First GMO foods, now Ebola. What Obama doesn’t want you to know.
  • So Really, How Do You Get Ebola?
  • Ebola virus outbreak: Curing Breakthrough Revealed

With the Ebola scare so prominent in the world right now, it’s very likely that recipients of such an email will click to open. But some of the headlines sound particularly suspect. For example, any breakthrough in Ebola would make international news, not just be sent to individual emails.

So what makes people so trusting of an email sent from a stranger? Why are so many computer users opening these emails?

Because the email senders are posing as the World Health Organization (WHO). In the email, you will see an official-looking WHO seal at the bottom. People trust the WHO as a source of reliable information.

It’s important to learn all you can about these spam emails so you can protect yourself and your devices from becoming contaminated with the virus.

Overview of the WHO Malware 

If you have yet to receive an email from the World Health Organization, make sure you watch out for it in your inbox. It more than likely will not end up in your spam folder, bypassing it in favor of your regular inbox. The email will claim to have some kind of information and prevention tips, and there will be an attachment included. Once you open the email, it will prompt you to open the attachment to receive the information promised by the subject line. That attachment is the malware waiting to infect your computer.

The malware file is what’s called a “DarkComet Remote Access Trojan.” Trojan viruses are well known, the name coming from the infamous Trojan Horse, a false peace offering that the Trojans brought into their city containing enemy soldiers. Trojan viruses allow hackers remote access to the computers they infect. The virus will run in the background of your PC, undetected by your antivirus software. In a sense, it bypasses your computer’s “immune system” much like the Ebola virus itself. 

This virus will allow the hackers remote access to your computer, enabling them to capture video from the webcam, log the keystrokes you make, and steal your passwords, along with anything else they might want.

How Dangerous Is the WHO Ebola Malware?

So far, there is no evidence that this malware is a severe threat. It is unknown if this is a widespread campaign, but according to SpiderLab (a team of ethical hackers), the emails were sent to one of their old honeypot addresses. This means that the campaign is untargeted and is likely low volume. It is possibly being used as a way to infect random computers, simply to collect data to use or sell.

The biggest threat is to individual computers that have contracted the virus, as the data being stolen could be used to steal money or personal information.

So how do you protect yourself from this virus?


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