Emotet Malware Attacks Have Returned

  • By Patrick Ryan
  • May 05, 2022

The Emotet botnet is back and more powerful than ever before. The botnet is employing a different method for delivery when compromising computers that operate with Windows. The infiltration occurs after VBA macros are disabled by default.

What is Known About the new Emotet Malware?

Emotet has returned after nearly a year-long absence. The digital miscreants responsible for the attack are employing an altered approach centered on phishing as opposed to the “spray then pray” strategy used in previous attacks.

The initial Emotet attacks after the nearly year-long absence were intentionally understated in an attempt to remain off the radar of law enforcement and gauge the efficacy of new attack strategies without a strong backlash. However, the hackers have heightened the intensity of the attacks in recent offensives, implementing threats at especially high volumes.Digital security specialists Crypolaemus and AdvIntel digital security specialists insist the criminals behind Emotet have transmitted millions of emails used for phishing to infect targeted devices with destructive malware. Botnets are then used to obtain control over the infected devices.

Emotet’s latest campaigns are centered on email accounts that have been compromised. The tainted accounts are used to transmit phishing messages with a single word in the subject line to entice recipients to click the email. The body of the message has a OneDrive URL with zip files containing the add-in files with the same moniker as the subject line. The XLL files are executed, allowing Emotet to infect the target with malware, steal data, and generate a backdoor to transmit additional malware.

Who is Behind the new Emotet Attacks?

Analysts at Proofpoint have tied the new Emotet activity to a cybercriminal collective referred to as TA542. It is alleged that TA542 has used Emotet malware dating back to 2014 to infiltrate systems, wreak havoc, and steal valuable information. In fact, some of those who work in the digital security industry insist Emotet is the most dangerous type of malware in existence.

What is Being Done to Stop Emotet?

Law enforcement has attempted to thwart Emotet for several years. Rewind to the winter of 2021, governments worked in unison with digital security specialists to halt the spread of Emotet malware throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Germany. Though Operation LadyBird attempted to eliminate hundreds of Emotet botnet servers, it appears as though that effort failed as Emotet has emerged stronger than ever.

Why is Emotet Acting Now After 10 Months of Inactivity?

It is assumed that Emotet hackers took nearly a full year off from digital attacks to refine their strategies. There is also some discussion that the hacking collective’s testing of phishing messages stems from Microsoft’s disabling of macros used in Microsoft Office apps. Those macros were disabled in the winter of 2021. Microsoft insists the changes were made to stop digital criminals from zeroing in on documents via automation services for the transmission of malware. 

What Can Organizations Do to Avoid Emotet Malware?

Aside from implementing the latest digital security measures, it is also prudent to train staff members about phishing and the wide array of digital attack methods hackers employ. All computer users should be trained to identify potentially harmful email messages and avoid clicking links within those messages. Even exercises in which digital attacks are simulated can help prepare a workforce for identifying and thwarting Emotet malware as well as other threats.

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