Feeds

Panic like it's 1999: Microsoft Office macro viruses are BACK

VBA IS NOT DEAD, shrieks infosec chap

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Macro viruses involving infected Word and Excel files were a plague in the late 1990s. Yet, like grunge music, the genre fell into decline as techniques and technologies moved on. More recently macro viruses have staged something of a revival, thanks to social-engineering trickery.

Windows executable malware has dominated macro viruses written in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) since the turn of the century.

Users opening an infected document were exposed to malicious code that infected Windows PCs. The macro virus would spread into a user's Office template files before sneaking copies of itself into any subsequently edited documents. Examples of macro-based malware include the fast-spreading Melissa email worm from 1999.

Security improvements in Microsoft Office products blocked many such attacks, propelling macro viruses towards extinction in the process.

Yet recently macro malware has been making a return. Security researcher Gabor “Szappi” Szappanos of Sophos reports that more than half of the document-based attacks seen recently contain VBA macros aimed at tricking the user, rather than more esoteric exploit code designed to trick Office itself.

Miscreants are using social engineering rather than exploiting software bugs and built-in security shortcomings to push the latest generation of macros.

"Crooks often use the presence of macros in their documents as an excuse to suggest that the document is more secure than usual, claiming that the document is somehow 'protected' until you enable macros to decrypt or unscramble it," explains anti-virus veteran Paul Ducklin in a post on Sophos' Naked Security blog.

Szappanos' research on the revival of macro viruses can be found in an article by Virus Bulletin, entitled VBA IS NOT DEAD!, here.

Security software ought to catch the latest generation of macro viruses in most cases - but it would be foolhardy to rely on this line of defence. Szappanos offers a fool-proof way of avoiding infection - disabling macros: "There is no justification as to why the content of a document can only be displayed properly if the execution of macros is enabled. If you receive a document with this advice, be aware: you are probably being attacked." ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.