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To make sure their potential victims don’t suspect that they’re the targets of an attack, cyber criminals are relying on harmless-looking Windows Help files (.hlp) to spreads pieces of malware.

Cyberattacks using this attack vector are aiming at government and industry sectors, according to a Symantec report.

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Everything starts with a simple email which informs the recipient of a “White Paper on corporate strategic planning.” In reality, the attachment is not a white paper, but a cleverly designed Windows Help file, the researchers said.

The Help file’s functionality permits a call to the Windows API, which allows the attacker to execute code and install other malicious elements.

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The fact this functionality exists by design, it’s not an exploit, the researchers said.

In the attacks identified so far, attackers were trying to spread Trojan.Ecltys and Backdoor.Barkiofork – pieces of malware often utilized in targeted attacks against government agencies and the industry sector.

Most of the threats are in the U.S., China, India and France.

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