Europe’s automotive supply chain is being targeted by a malware campaign connected to the increasingly popular Carbon Grabber crimeware kit, researchers at Symantec have warned.

At first glance, what Symantec uncovered earlier this month when investigating a spam campaign spreading malicious attachments looks relatively innocuous, one of dozens of such incidents security firms pick up on in any given month.

The giveaway that there is more to this one is the unusual level of targeting which aims more than half of all spam at the at the car rental, insurance, commercial transport, and second-hand commercial and agricultural vehicle sales sectors in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and to a lesser extent, the UK.

Using the lure of a bogus company called Technik Automobile GMBH offering to buy pre-owned vehicles, the attackers attempt to install the 'Retgate' credential stealer which monitors access to Outlook email accounts but can also be used to steal web logins from a range of browsers.

The attackers also directed the attack at customer service departments, a layer of SMBs that will enjoy good access to a range of company systems.

Symantec offers no information on the origin of the attack although a number of criminal gangs are known to use the Russian-developed Carbon Grabber toolkit that underpins it.

“One thing we know for sure is that if the attack is successful, the cybercriminals will have a foothold in the victim’s business. They would have the capability to send emails from the compromised Outlook account and to monitor for credentials entered into browsers,” said the research note.

The crimeware kit industry is still adjusting to the spectacular downing of the sector’s big daddy, Blackhole, late last year. Into the vacumm left behind it have emerged a number of other often very specialised kits, including the Magnitude kit used to distribute the CryptoWall ransom malware.

Carbon Grabber, first detected in January 2014, is small fry by these standards but a wave of attacks seems to have emerged from the kit all the same.