Mac OS X Airmail 3 Scam — Detect and Remove Infections

Mac OS X Airmail 3 Scam — Detect and Remove Infections

A recently discovered Mac OS X threat is the Airmail 3 scam which takes advantage of a software vulnerability, our guide will show users how to detect and remove active infections.

SIDENOTE: This post was originally published in August 2019. But we gave it an update in August 2019.

Threat Summary

NameAirmail 3 Scam
TypePhishing scam, Software vulnerability
Short DescriptionMac OS X Users can be made victims of a Airmail 3 scam caused by a software exploit.
SymptomsThe victims may receive multiple email messages in their application.
Distribution MethodBundled downloads, malicious scripts and other methods.
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by Airmail 3 Scam


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User ExperienceJoin Our Forum to Discuss Airmail 3 Scam.

Airmail 3 Scam – How Did I Get It

Computer security experts have received reports of a dangerous Airmail 3 scam targeting Mac OS. It is rated as a severe threat due to the fact that there are several different ways that it can be delivered to the victims.

The hackers take advantage of a security vulnerability in the program (which is a popular alternative to Apple’s own “Mail”application) which automatically leads to an infection. For the hacker operators the most accessible approach is to use SPAM messages that contain the necessary code that will trigger this reaction. The dangerous code can be either directly embedded in the body contents or attached in a file or payload.

There are two main types of payload carriers that are most commonly used to spread viruses and threats like this one:

  • Documents — The hackers can embed the necessary code triggering the Airmail 3 Exploit in macros. They can be made part of any standard document including rich text documents, presentations, databases and databases. Whenever they are opened by the victim users a notification prompt will appear asking them to enable the built-in macros.
  • Software Installers, Updates & Add-Ons — The criminals can bundle the associated virus code into installers, updates or plugins that may appear as legitimate offerings from the vendors or a download partner. They make be accompanied by legitimate text, design and layout elements taken from the official sources. The hackers themselves acquire the original copies from the main websites in order to create the counterfeit copies.

To further increase the number of infected hosts the criminals can construct hacker-controlled sites that can spread the aforementioned payload carriers.

In advanced cases the hackers can embed the code into browser hijackers — malicious extensions made for the most popular web browsers. They are usually uploaded to the relevant browser’s extension repository using fake user reviews and credentials. The name “hijacker” comes form the fact that once they are installed on the victim hosts they will modify the default settings in order to redirect the users to a hacker-controlled page. Once this is done the virus infection will follow.

One of the dangerous facts about the exploit is that in some cases the virus infections can be caused without user interaction. The criminals attempt to embed an attack URL that will preprogram the Airmail 3 application into executing malicious behavior.

Airmail 3 Scam – More Information

The security analysis reveals that the hackers can take advantage of a few different vulnerabilities that have been identified in the program. Using the malicious code they can force the victim accounts to send emails without passing through the authentication phase. This effectively allows the hackers to manipulate the infected systems into sending emails to other hosts.

There are several attack scenarios that can be used in this case:

  • Email-based Attacks — The victim machines can be reconfigured into sending out messages coming out from the user accounts. This is particularly effective for conducting email-based SPAM attacks.
  • Program Data Theft — As the infections are caused through an user-installed application the email messages can contain user account information and other details used by the software.
  • Payload Delivery — The malicious emails can be used to deploy other threats to the hosts.
  • Computer Interaction — The built-in scripts can manipulate the application into running certain commands that can lead to attack models and malware behavior.

The analysis shows that the criminals have the ability to trigger various types of phishing attacks. The code can trigger notification prompts that can be combined with the hacker-crafted emails which can result in social engineering. End goals can include the deployment of other threats to the infected machines. The list of possible payloads includes ransomware that can encrypt sensitive user data and blackmail the victims into paying them money to restore the data. Another dangerous instance is the delivery of a Trojan horse — such infections usually establish an active secure connection with a hacker-controlled server. It allows the hackers to constantly spy on the victims, take over control of their machines and retrieve any desired file.

The vulnerability has already been reported for a security advisory assignment. Mac OS X users are advised to temporarily discontinue use of Airmail 3 until a patch has been released.

We recommend that all users resort to a cleaner utility in case of possible infections as the attack campaign can be configured into running all sorts of system modifications. Virus infections can be programmed to automatically start when the computer is powered on. Other effects of the threat can disable access to recovery menus and etc.


Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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