BazarCall Scams: Call Centers Playing A Roll In Phishing & Ransomware Attacks

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BazarCall Scams: Call Centers Playing A Roll In Phishing & Ransomware Attacks

(Last Updated On: October 31, 2022)

BazaCall ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.: Call Centers Playing A Roll In Phishing & RansomwareRansomware Ransomware is a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim's personal data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system so that it is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion. It encrypts the victim's files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. In a properly implemented cryptoviral extortion attack, recovering the files without the decryption key is an intractable problem – and difficult to trace digital currencies such as paysafecard or Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are used for the ransoms, making tracing and prosecuting the perpetrators difficult. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan virus disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading or opening when it arrives as an email attachment. However, one high-profile example, the WannaCry worm, traveled automatically between computers without user interaction. Attacks

Adding Humans To CybercrimeCybercrime Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks. Attacks

How Scams Work – A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Special Report

The Evolution of Cybercrime

Introduction – BazaCall or BazarCall – Same Thing

For the past year, security researchers have been waging an online battle against a new ‘BazarCall’ malwareMalware Short for "malicious software," this term means computer viruses and other types of programs that cybercriminals use to disrupt or access your computer, typically with the aim of gathering sensitive files and accounts. that uses call centers to distribute some of the most damaging Windows malware.

The new malware was discovered being distributed by call centers in late January 2022 and is named BazarCall, or BazaCall, as the threat actors initially used it to install the BazarLoader malware.

While other malware is now being distributed, researchers continue to identify the distribution campaign as BazarCall.

BazarCall Social EngineeringSocial Engineering Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. It is used as a type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme. It has also been defined as "any act that influences a person to take any action that may or may not be in their best interests." Tactics

BazarCall campaigns weave phone-based scams and email-based or message-based scams together!

They leave out the malicious links or attachments in email messages that can be detected by automation and that would alert aware users in favor of phone numbers that recipients are misled into calling.

It’s a technique reminiscent of vishingVishing What is a vishing attack? Vishing is the social engineering approach that leverages voice communication. This technique can be combined with other forms of social engineering that entice a victim to call a certain number and divulge sensitive information. Advanced vishing attacks can take place completely over voice communications by exploiting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions and broadcasting services. VoIP easily allows caller identity (ID) to be spoofed, which can take advantage of the public’s misplaced trust in the security of phone services, especially landline services. Landline communication cannot be intercepted without physical access to the line; however, this trait is not beneficial when communicating directly with a malicious actor. and tech support scamsTech Support Scams Phone scammers may masquerade as tech support employees for a major company in order to take your money or install a virus on your computer. They may call from what seem to be legitimate company numbers using caller ID spoofing. where potential victims are being cold-called by the attacker, except in BazarCall’s case, targeted users must dial the number. And when they do, the users are connected with actual humans on the other end of the line, who then provide step-by-step instructions for installing malware into their devices.

BazarCall campaigns first came into the limelight in late 2020 and since then cybersecurity professionals have seen a constant increase in attacks pertaining to this campaign. It was initially found to be delivering BazaarLoader (backdoorBackdoor A hidden method for bypassing normal computer authentication or access systems. software) which was used as an entry point to deliver ransomware.

What is particularly interesting is the evolution of the social engineering tactics of BazarCall. With the growth in cyberattacks, people are increasingly aware of the common tactics used by cybercriminals. As awareness has improved, BazarCall has ceaselessly adapted and evolved its social engineering tactics accordingly.

The BazarScam Flow
The BazarScam Flow

Out With The Links And Attachments, In With The Customer Service Phone Numbers

BazaCall campaigns begin with an email that uses various social engineering lures to trick target recipients into calling a phone number. For example, the email informs users about a supposed expiring trial subscription and that their credit card will soon be automatically charged for the subscription’s premium version. Each wave of emails in the campaign uses a different “theme” of subscription that is supposed to be expiring, such as a photo editing service or a cooking and recipes website membership. In a more recent campaign, the email does away with the subscription trial angle and instead poses as a confirmation receipt for a purchased software license.

Analyzing BazaCall (BazarCall) Attacks

Using emails obtained by cybersecurity professionals, researchers contacted various call centers to learn about different techniques and tactics utilized by attackers.

Based on the analysis, they were able to generalize the attack flow of the BazaCall campaigns and categorize the same into three phases (see above). The study also revealed the evolution of social engineering tactics which was particularly noticed in the call center scripts used by the scammers to trick victims into downloading and installing malware in their system, the scammers are now found to be utilizing many different types of conversation scripts.

Attack Phase 1 – The bait

The delivery vector is a fake notification email that informs the recipient about a charge on their account for the purchase/renewal of a product/subscription.

It contains all the generic information like Product Name, Date, Model, etc. along with a unique invoice number used by the scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. to identify the victim. In addition, the email states that the victim can call the phone number for any queries or cancellation requests. In different variants, the information was found to be present in the email body or as a PDF attachment.

The campaign was seen impersonating many brands like Geek Squad, Norton, McAfee, PayPal, Microsoft, and many others.

BazaCall Emails

BazaCall email is sent from a different sender, typically using free email services and likely-compromised email addresses.

The lures within the email use fake business names that are similar to the names of real businesses. A recipient who then searches the business name online to check the email’s legitimacy may be led to believe that such a company exists and that the message they received has merit.

Some sample subject lines are listed below.

They each have a unique “account number” created by the attackers to identify the recipients:

  • Soon you’ll be moved to the Premium membership, as the demo period is ending. Personal ID: KT[unique ID number]
  • Automated premium membership renewal notice GW[unique ID number] ?
  • Your demo stage is nearly ended. Your user account number VC[unique ID number]. All set to continue?
  • Notification of an abandoned road accident site! Must to get hold of a manager! [body of email contains unique ID number]
  • Thanks for deciding to become a member of BooyaFitness. Fitness program was never simpler before [body of email contains unique ID number]
  • Your subscription will be changed to the gold membership, as the trial is ending. Order: KT[unique ID number]
  • Your free period is almost ended. Your member’s account number VC[unique ID number]. Ready to move forward?
  • Thank you for getting WinRAR pro plan. Your order # is WR[unique ID number].
  • Many thanks for choosing WinRAR. You need to check out the information about your licenses [body of email contains unique ID number]

While the subject lines in most of the observed campaigns contain similar keywords and occasional emojis, each one is unique because it includes an alphanumeric sequence specific to the recipient. This sequence is always presented as a user ID or transaction code, but it actually serves as a way for the attacker to identify the recipient and track the latter’s responses to the campaign. The unique ID numbers largely follow the same pattern, which the regular expression [A-Z]{1,3}(?:\d{9,15}) can surface, for example, L0123456789 and KT01234567891.

In one recent BazaCall campaign, the unique ID was present in the body of the email, but not in the subject line:

Example BazarCall Emails
Example BazarCall Emails

Phase 2 – The Attack

Once the recipient calls the scamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. call center the trickiest phase of the attack begins: manipulating the victim into downloading and running malware on their system.

BazaCall employs many different tactics to achieve this. We will now go into greater detail on the conversation script categories.

THE (DIS)HONEST GUY

This tactic begins with the scammer asking the victim for basic details like invoice number, phone number, email address etc. Following this, the scammer takes a pause and pretends to check his system to find any invoice relative to the details shared by the victim and then conveys that no invoice could be found.

The scammer suggests that the email received by the victim is a spam email and should be ignored.

The scammer then asks the victim if their system is slow or if they are facing any other issues with it, then the scammer suggests that the victim’s system might be affected by malware which would have caused them to receive the spam email. He then offers to schedule a call back where an executive can scan and check the victim’s system and resolve any issues.

The next call begins with the scammer asking the name of the operating system which the victim is using. Following the answer, the scammer asks the victim to open a specific URL which is a malicious website masqueraded to look like a customer support website.

The scammer then asks the victim to enter a code on the website to download a file that he claims to be anti-virusVirus A computer program that can replicate itself and spread from computer to computer or file to file. It comes to life only when you take a specific action, such as running a particular program. software. As an additional tactic to make the call sound more authentic, the scammer asks the victim to keep a note of the code for verification purposes. Finally, the scammer asks the victim to execute the downloaded file to run the scan on their system.

THE (FAKE) INCIDENT RESPONDER

This tactic was found to be used in PayPal-themed BazaCall campaigns. It begins with the scammer asking the victim for the details like invoice number, debited amount etc. The scammer then asks if the victim uses PayPal, on answering “Yes,” the scammer then asks for the email ID which is linked to their PayPal account.

The scammer then pretends to check the information related to the victim’s PayPal account and states that the account has been accessed from 8 (or any random high number) of devices. The scammer asks if all these devices belong to the victim and just like anyone would, the victim gets alarmed. The scammer then asks the victim about their current location, following the answer the scammer informs the victim that their account was accessed from a suspicious location, the scammer would then name any random location which is far from the victim’s current location.

Now, the scammer asks the victim to search “What’s my IP” on Google and suggests that if the result has a title as “your public IP addressGeolocation Geolocation is the utilization of a device IP address, along with other device signals, to determine geographical location. An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label such as 192.0.2.1 that is connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two main functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing. An IP Address can be used to locate a physical computer's location.,” that means the connection is public and hence insecure. The scammer then suggests that to secure the connection, the victim must open a particular website. The final step is where the scammer asks the victim to download and execute a file.

THE OVER COMPENSATOR

Just like the other categories, this tactic also begins with the scammer asking for basic details and pretending to check their system for the same. The scammer then confirms that the amount (the fee) has been deducted from the victim’s account for the security (or any other) product/service.

He then asks the victim if they would want to cancel the subscription and if the victim says “Yes,” the scammer explains the importance of security software to the victim and would ask if the victim still wants to proceed with the cancellation.

This is used as a tactic to make the call sound authentic by convincing the victim that the caller is motivated to sell the subscription for the security product and is not motivated to proceed with the cancellation. The scammer then states that the victim needs to be connected to a support agent to complete the cancellation and receive a refund. As an additional tactic to gain trust, the scammer repeatedly asks the victim not to share any sensitive information with him as the call is being recorded and the company policy does not allow him to ask for any sensitive information from the customer. The final step is where the scammer asks the victim to download and execute another file.

THE TERRIBLE/SENSIBLE ONE

This tactic is used in the “security subscription renewal” themed campaigns. This also begins with the scammer asking for some basic details and pretending to find information related to it. The scammer then explains to the victim that the charge has been placed on their account because the security product that came pre-installed with their laptop has expired and has hence been automatically renewed to continue the security protection for the device.

The scammer then asks the victim if they would like to continue with their security subscription or cancel it.

As the victim requests to cancel the subscription, the scammer asks if the victim has any other security solution present on their system. This is also a trust-gaining tactic where the scammer pretends to be interested in the security of the victim’s system. The scammer then states that the victim needs to be connected to the cancellation server to complete the cancellation process and receive a refund. Here too, the final step is like the other cases, where the scammer asks the victim to download and execute yet another file.

The Relevance of the Invoice ID

All the variants of the campaign began with the scammer asking for the Invoice ID from the victim. That is because each Invoice ID is uniquely generated for every email.

When the victim provides the Invoice ID to the scammer, the scammer searches for the same in their database and if found, the scammer can use details related to the Invoice ID in order to pretend to already have the victim’s details like name, email address, the amount debited, etc. This gives an impression of authenticity to the victim and helps to convince him into downloading and running the malware.

The following are some examples of the fake support websites found by security professionals which are being used in BazaCall campaigns to deliver malware.

Fake Cancelation Screen
Fake Screens

Phase 3 – The kill

Once the malware is executed, then begins the third phase of the attack where the malware is used to conduct financial fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. or push additional malware to the system.

Based on the analysis by cybersecurity researchers the majority of BazaCall campaigns utilize a file name like “support.Client.exe” and the following is an example of such a file spotted by our researchers:


Name         Support.Client.exe
Size 85.70 KB
File-Type Win32 EXE
SHA 256 ead2b47848758a91466c91bed2378de1253d35db3505b5f725c289468d24645b
SHA 1 bc664ec8dff62f5793af24f6ca013e29498062f2
MD5 1e88b21d4c7d51f312337b477167ed25

Once it has been executed, the file connects to a malicious domain and downloads a ClickOnce Security and Deployment Application file (or others depending on what brand is being impersonated) with “.application” extension. ClickOnce is a deployment technology that allows it to create self-updating Windows-based applicationsApplications Applications or Apps An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc. Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free. Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware. Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing. that can be installed and run with minimal user interaction. Once this process has started the war is lost.

The malware then follows to drop multiple files on the victim’s system that are required for the proper execution of the malware. The dropped files are often found to be for ScreenConnect software which is a legitimate remote-control software by ConnectWise. Cybercriminals, however, have been utilizing ScreenConnect for many years as a part of the attack chain when they drop spywareSpyware A type of malware installed on computers or cellphones to track your actions and/or collect information without your knowledge. Some spyware can change computer settings for pharming redirection., ransomware, etc. BazaCall campaigns have also been consistent with the use of ScreenConnect for more than a year.

Once the malware completes downloading the dependencies, it executes and the scammer gains remote access to the victim’s system. The attacker can also show a fake lock screen and make the system inaccessible to the victim, where the attacker is able to perform tasks without the victim being aware of them.

In one such case noticed by cybersecurity professionals, the scammer opens a Fake Cancellation Form behind the lock screen and then asks the victim to fill out the form that requires generic details like name, address, email, etc. On submitting the form, the victim receives a success message saying the refund is being processed and they should log into their bank account and accept the refund.

Fake Transaction Screen

The scammer then asks the victim to login into their bank account to complete the refund process where the scammer would manipulate the victim into sending money to the scammer by making it look as if the victim is receiving the amount. This is achieved by locking the victim’s screen and then unlocking the screen when the transaction requires an OTP (One Time Password/MFA Code) or a secondary password. The victim is also presented with a fake refund successful page (above) to convince him into believing that they have received the refund. The scammer may also send an SMS to the victim with a fake money-received message as an additional tactic to prevent the victim from suspecting any fraud.

The above example only presents one of the many directions the attack can lead to, the attacker might also use remote access to install additional malware in the victim’s system to gain persistent access to the victim’s system which can be then used to spy on the activities, steal data, steal credentials or install ransomware on the system.

Summary

This is a profoundly serious form of scam/cybercrime attack!

Every online user needs to modify their behaviors to prevent phishing and other related scams and attack. However, romance scam victims are 1000 times more likely to be impulsive and not stop when alarm bells go off! Even one of our own Board Members after ten years scam-free yet fell for a recent phishing scamPhishing scam Scammers often use email "phishing" to hook unsuspecting fraud victims. Treat all unsolicited email and spam as suspicious: Do not open or reply. To avoid loading malicious software onto your computer or device, never click a link – even from a trusted source – unless you've verified its authenticity. Be especially wary of emails asking for emergency funds or help from friends, family and colleagues. Their email accounts may have been hacked. Scammers will also pretend to be government agencies in scam emails..

Online safe is partly about knowledge, but knowledge and intelligence are not enough. You have to change your behaviorBehavior   Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams. and eliminate impulsiveness. If you cannot do that you will remain vulnerable and be scammed over and over.

We thank Microsoft & Trelix for the use of their images and some content.

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This content and other material contained on the website, appsApps Applications or Apps An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc. Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free. Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware. Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing., newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use

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SCARS, SCARS|INTERNATIONAL, SCARS, SCARS|SUPPORT, SCARS, RSN, Romance Scams Now, SCARS|INTERNATION, SCARS|WORLDWIDE, SCARS|GLOBAL, SCARS, Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams, SCARS|ANYSCAM, Project Anyscam, Anyscam, SCARS|GOFCH, GOFCH, SCARS|CHINA, SCARS|CDN, SCARS|UK, SCARS|LATINOAMERICA, SCARS|MEMBER, SCARS|VOLUNTEER, SCARS Cybercriminal Data Network, Cobalt Alert, Scam Victims Support GroupSupport Group In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., SCARS ANGELS, SCARS RANGERS, SCARS MARSHALLS, SCARS PARTNERS, are all trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the law firm for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at legal@AgainstScams.org

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