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End of days: Possessed POWERPOINT predicts Mayan Apocalypse

Hardly the end of the world, OR IS IT?

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Miscreants have crammed malware into a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation about today's supposed Mayan Apocalypse. If someone emails you a .ppt slideshow titled Will the world end in 2012?, give it a wide berth unless the world really does end today and you're feeling wild.

The booby-trapped presentation packs Visual Basic macro code designed to drop an infectious executable called VBA[X].exe onto Windows machines. The malware-secreting macro code also appeared in an Excel spreadsheet of a Sudoku puzzle that turned up on the internet earlier this week.

The "end is nigh" PowerPoint file needs macro execution to be switched on in order to work when opened. The code puts together a valid Windows Portable Executable file from an array of bytes. This generated program connects to a remote command-and-control server to carry out orders on behalf of its masters - although researchers studying the software found that it didn't work properly.

Back in the 1990s, macros were the weapon of choice for budding virus writers. Microsoft responded by disabling macros by default, all but killing off the threat. The return of this malicious scripting code is an interesting curiosity rather than a pressing danger.

Searching on the web reveals the presentation's authors gathered warnings of impending doom from a US preacher who almost certainly had nothing to do with the booby-trapped document. However the blog of the implicated believer has been compromised to manipulate search engine results for, er, lovemaking enhancements, "off-shore" casinos, foreign exchange fraud and payday loans.

A blog post by Sophos, including screenshots, that explains the threat in greater depth can be found here. ®

Doomnote

The Mayan Long Count calendar cycles every 5,125 years, each period covering a great age of humanity. According to ancient myths, there are five such ages and each one ends in cataclysm of some kind. Today marks the end of the fifth age, or so the story goes.

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