What Do Court Email and Funeral Email Have in Common?

In this blog detailing how spammers continue to change their messages in order to increase their success rate, we looked at the evolution of the same spam campaign from missed voicemail messages to spoofing various retailers, and then spoofing utility statements. Clicking on the link led the users to a download for a .zip file containing Trojan.Fakeavlock. Attackers may have realized that those attack vectors no longer entice recipients, so spammers have introduced two new schemes for this campaign that appear to be random and unrelated at first, but they do share a common goal.

The first scheme spoofs various courts around the country:

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Figure 1. United States court spam email

The second scheme spoofs a funeral home:

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Figure 2. Funeral home spam email

What do these two vectors have in common? They both urge the recipients to open the message and quickly click on the links. There is a sense of urgency in both messages; usually people do not want to ignore a message from a court, and they would probably want to see if they recognize the person mentioned in the funeral invitation link. In the latter case, the funeral is scheduled to be on the same day or next day, which increases the urgency even more.

While the spammers continue to try their best, they keep making the same mistake. They usually send poorly crafted messages where the header does not match the information in the body. Here is one such example where the header indicates that the message is from a court when the body is a utility statement:

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Figure 3. Spam email where the header and body do not match

This spam campaign continues to use various hijacked URLs (a compromised web server hosting spam content without the owner’s knowledge) as call-to-actions. Various directory paths are used to hide this spam content as seen here:

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Figure 4. Directories used to hide spam content

The left half of the graph shows relatively simple colors, compared with the right half where there are more colors being represented per day. This indicates that the spammer is using a greater variety of directory paths compared to December and early January.

This particular spam run is probably not over yet, and the spammer may find another clever vector to utilize. However, Symantec constantly monitors spam attacks to ensure that users are kept up-to-date with information on the latest threats.