TONEDEAF is a malicious backdoor application targeted at oil/gas, government, and energy/utilities industries. It seems the malware was created in Iran as the country has a critical need for strategic intelligence due to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. Thus, it is another malicious application that is unlikely to be received by regular home users. In this report, we discuss its capabilities, possible distribution channels, and its deletion. If you are interested in learning how a threat like TONEDEAF could be eliminated manually, you should have a look at the deletion instructions placed at the end of this article. However, we should stress that given the threat is vicious and could steal sensitive information, it is advisable not to take any chances and erase it with a robust security tool.
Reports claim that hackers responsible for distributing TONEDEAF reach their victims via LinkedIn. Apparently, the cybercriminals might pretend to be from Cambridge University or other reputable institutions alike. Once they located targeted victims, the hackers should send them a message via the mentioned platform. Inside of such messages, there should be a link to a fake university’s website. Clicking it should result in downloading a malicious .xls file that after its launch ought to drop the backdoor’s on the victim’s device.
Clearly, this shows how important it is not to rush into opening files even if they appear to be coming from reliable sources. All data that comes from unknown senders, under suspicious circumstances, or without you expecting should be scanned with a reliable antimalware tool first. Plus, whenever you someone sends you a link you did not expect to receive, you should always ask what will happen if you click it and why it was sent to you. It is possible that a sender's manner of speaking could give away he is not what he seems to be.
Nonetheless, if a targeted victim is careless and opens the malicious document, TONEDEAF should drop its launcher in the %USERPROFILE%\.templates directory. At first the file could be called System.doc, but, later on, the malicious application might rename it System Manager.exe. No doubt, such a name was picked on purpose to confuse inexperienced users as they may assume the file ought to belong to the system and should not be removed. What’s more, after settling in, the malicious backdoor application should start collecting various sensitive information available through the infected device. Besides, researchers report that TONEDEAF is capable of communicating to a server. Consequently, the threat could send collected data to its developers.
As usual with such malware, it is essential to get rid of it as fast as possible to prevent it from stealing sensitive information. As mentioned earlier, it is possible to erase TONEDEAF manually, although the task might be complicated. If you wish to learn how to remove it manually, you should follow the instructions located at the end of this paragraph as they show how to identify and erase all of the malware’s created files. A safer option would be using a reliable antimalware tool that could delete TONEDEAF for you. In such a case, you would need to pick a reliable tool, scan your computer with it, and press its displayed removal button.