This article has been created in order to explain to you what is the Google Docs Phishing Scam and how you can remove them as well as all potentially unwanted programs delivered through them.
The Google Docs Phishing Scam is a popular malware tactic that attempts to manipulate Google Docs users into infecting themselves with viruses or disclosing their passwords. At the moment we do not have information about the perpetrators behind it. Our article gives an in-depth explanation of how it propagates and how victims can attempt to remove active infections.
|Google Docs phishing scam
|Phishing email scam
|The Google Docs Phishing Scam is a recent example of the scam tactic that extorts the targets into interacting with a scam site.
|Victims will receive email messages that contain the phishing instructions.
|Primarily through Google Docs messages.
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Google Docs Phishing Scam – Distribution Ways
Recent security reports indicate that a new wave of Google docs phishing scam messages have been observed by computer users worldwide. Over the last few years we have detected independent campaigns that all seek to send out scam links and virus content to the recipients.
As they are carried out by independent groups various tactics can be used. The primary one is the spread of a malicious link where the users are coerced into interact with the content. In this case the malicious users can use the same mechanism as those used by browser hijackers and viruses. The most popular methods are the following:
- Email Messages — The victims will receive email message invitations or direct Google Docs links. The messages may be either personalized or sent as a generic alert. The hackers can customize the messages pretending to be from a company, service or vendor that is offering them additional information. They are coerced into opening up the shown link.
- Web Sites — The malicious users may set up web sites and portals that pose as legitimate vendor landing pages, Internet portals and etc. Whenever they are opened links to the Google Docs will be shown to the users and they will be coerced into opening them.
- Document Scripts — By opening up infected documents made by the hackers the uers can view the link to the Google Docs phishing scam message. They can be of any popular document type: presentations, rich text documents, spreadsheets and databases. Whenever they are opened by the users a prompt will asking the users to enable the built-in scripts. If enabled they will display pop-up windows and large text links that will lead to the Google Docs phishing scam.
- Hijackers and Virus Infections — Malware infections of all popular types can be used to spawn links. Ransom notes can include them in their body contents while browser hijackers can institute them in the changed web browser settings.
- Malicious Setup Files — The hackers can craft malicious installers of popular software. They can be of any type: system utilities, creativity suites or productivity applications. When they are started the Google Docs phishing scam messages will be shown either during the installation or when it is completed.
Google Docs Phishing Scam – In-Depth Overview
When the Google Docs phishing scam message is opened it may request access to the Google account credentials — this is a serious issue as in some cases the shown link is in fact a fake login page. All entered information will automatically be transferred to the hacker operators and they will be able to overtake control of the hijacked accounts immediately.
The contents of the Google Docs phishing scam messages can include various malware contents. Depending on the used scenario the signs and delivery might be different. A prominent example is the automatic launch of built-in script that can load tracking cookies into the web browser. This will allow the malicious operators behind the threat to track the user interactions across all viewed websites. If this is combined with a data harvesting module the extracted information can be grouped into two main groups:
- Sensitive User Data — These two modules can be used to hijack information that can directly reveal the identity of the victim user. This is done by looking for strings such as their name, address, email address, interests and stored account credentials. In some cases the code can also scan the contents of the local computer not just the browser itself.
- ID Information — Many of these scripts also assign an unique victim ID to each victim device. It is generated by using input parameters such as a list of the available hardware components, user settings and certain operating system variables.
A large part of the Google Docs phishing scam messages can also lead to infections with cryptocurrency miners. They will take advantage of the available system resources by loading complex mathematical tasks. Whenever one of them is completed and reported to the specified server the operators will receive income in the form of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Monero.
Most of the detected strains have the final goal of delivering malware of all kinds. Popular examples are the following:
- Trojan Horse Infections — These are among the most dangerous virus infections. The classic scheme is to load a client onto the victim systems that establish a secure connection to a hacker-controlled server. This will allow the criminal operators to overtake control of the infected systems at any given moment. Other possible actions includes the theft of data and the upload of additional threats.
- Ransomware — These viruses aim to encrypt sensitive user data with a strong cipher. The typical behavior is to use a built-in list of target file extensions. After it completes execution a ransomware note will be crafted. Its contents will blackmail the users into paying a “decryption” fee.
- Browser Hijackers — Using scripts and various redirects the phishing scam can lead to infections with dangerous web browser extensions. When installed they will redirect the victims to a hacker-controlled site.
Depending on the exact hacker configuration the Google Docs phishing scam tactics may change. It is possible that the stolen information by the hacker groups be stored in shared databases and used late for crimes such as identity theft or financial abuse.
Google Docs Phishing Scam Example — The Shared Document
One of the prominent campaigns made use of SPAM emails that were sent directly to the Gmail inboxes of the targets. They appear as being sent by a contact of the victims or a service announcement. The body contents coerces them into opening the displayed link.
When the users navigate to the link they will be redirected to a rogue website which is designed to appear like a Google sign-in page. If the victims enter in their account credentials they will be automatically sent to the hacker operators. A direct consequence is that the victim’s email inboxes will be scanned for all contacts. Using automated scripts the hijacked scripts will send out the same phishing messages to them.
The victim users may not suspect that their emails have been hacked and continue to send and receive their day-to-day correspondence. In the meantime the criminals will be monitoring all user actions which is especially dangerous if they come across copies of letters, documents or online banking accounts. Such information can be used for various crimes — identity theft, financial abuse, blackmail and etc.
Google Docs Phishing Scam Example — Signed Documents
Another popular technique relies on sending the victims messages that are signed with security certificates. They are coupled by several phishing scenarios that are being by the operators:
- Financial Documents
- Delivery Notifications
As the emails are usually non-personalized and use the same style of writing many of the users will be fooled into interacting with the contents. The delivered payload is usually an infected payload which either contains malicious macros or is a virus file itself.
Google Docs Phishing Scam Example — Google Ads Login Page
A separate Google Docs phishing scam was spotted that shows a document linking to a Google Ads login page. The end goal of the hacker operators is to manipulate them into entering their Google credentials into it. Such messages can be delivered through all popular tactics — email messages, web sites and infected documents.
Some of the examples follow the exact web design template and even customized the links leading to legitimate Google sections. The only difference between the legit and the scam messages is the address and the security certificates. This convincing approach can fool many users into interacting with the script. If any credentials are entered they will be automatically transferred to the hacker operators.
Remove Google Docs Phishing Scam from Windows and Your Browser
If you want to remove the Google Docs Phishing Scam from your computer, we strongly suggest that you follow the removal instructions posted underneath this article. They have been created with the main idea In mind to help you delete this virus either manually or automatically. Be advised that according to experts the best way to try and remove the software that is causing the Google Docs Phishing Scamming pop-ups is to use an advanced anti-malware software. Such program is created with the idea in mind to fully scan your computer and try to eliminate any traces of unwanted programs while protecting your computer against future infections as well.
Google Docs phishing scam-FAQ
What Is Google Docs phishing scam?
The Google Docs phishing scam threat is adware or browser redirect virus.
It may slow your computer down significantly and display advertisements. The main idea is for your information to likely get stolen or more ads to appear on your device.
The creators of such unwanted apps work with pay-per-click schemes to get your computer to visit risky or different types of websites that may generate them funds. This is why they do not even care what types of websites show up on the ads. This makes their unwanted software indirectly risky for your OS.
What Are the Symptoms of Google Docs phishing scam?
There are several symptoms to look for when this particular threat and also unwanted apps in general are active:
Symptom #1: Your computer may become slow and have poor performance in general.
Symptom #2: You have toolbars, add-ons or extensions on your web browsers that you don't remember adding.
Symptom #3: You see all types of ads, like ad-supported search results, pop-ups and redirects to randomly appear.
Symptom #4: You see installed apps on your Mac running automatically and you do not remember installing them.
Symptom #5: You see suspicious processes running in your Task Manager.
If you see one or more of those symptoms, then security experts recommend that you check your computer for viruses.
What Types of Unwanted Programs Are There?
According to most malware researchers and cyber-security experts, the threats that can currently affect your device can be rogue antivirus software, adware, browser hijackers, clickers, fake optimizers and any forms of PUPs.
What to Do If I Have a "virus" like Google Docs phishing scam?
With few simple actions. First and foremost, it is imperative that you follow these steps:
Step 1: Find a safe computer and connect it to another network, not the one that your Mac was infected in.
Step 2: Change all of your passwords, starting from your email passwords.
Step 3: Enable two-factor authentication for protection of your important accounts.
Step 4: Call your bank to change your credit card details (secret code, etc.) if you have saved your credit card for online shopping or have done online activities with your card.
Step 5: Make sure to call your ISP (Internet provider or carrier) and ask them to change your IP address.
Step 6: Change your Wi-Fi password.
Step 7: (Optional): Make sure to scan all of the devices connected to your network for viruses and repeat these steps for them if they are affected.
Step 8: Install anti-malware software with real-time protection on every device you have.
Step 9: Try not to download software from sites you know nothing about and stay away from low-reputation websites in general.
If you follow these recommendations, your network and all devices will become significantly more secure against any threats or information invasive software and be virus free and protected in the future too.
How Does Google Docs phishing scam Work?
Once installed, Google Docs phishing scam can collect data using trackers. This data is about your web browsing habits, such as the websites you visit and the search terms you use. It is then used to target you with ads or to sell your information to third parties.
Google Docs phishing scam can also download other malicious software onto your computer, such as viruses and spyware, which can be used to steal your personal information and show risky ads, that may redirect to virus sites or scams.
Is Google Docs phishing scam Malware?
The truth is that PUPs (adware, browser hijackers) are not viruses, but may be just as dangerous since they may show you and redirect you to malware websites and scam pages.
Many security experts classify potentially unwanted programs as malware. This is because of the unwanted effects that PUPs can cause, such as displaying intrusive ads and collecting user data without the user’s knowledge or consent.
About the Google Docs phishing scam Research
The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this Google Docs phishing scam how-to removal guide included, is the outcome of extensive research, hard work and our team’s devotion to help you remove the specific, adware-related problem, and restore your browser and computer system.
How did we conduct the research on Google Docs phishing scam?
Please note that our research is based on independent investigation. We are in contact with independent security researchers, thanks to which we receive daily updates on the latest malware, adware, and browser hijacker definitions.
Furthermore, the research behind the Google Docs phishing scam threat is backed with VirusTotal.
To better understand this online threat, please refer to the following articles which provide knowledgeable details.