The Dark Sides of the Friendly Microsoft Office Macro!
The web is full of vulnerabilities; while there are frauds, scams and security threats on one hand, there are also simple programs that install on your device to prepare the groundwork for the more advanced vulnerabilities to come and attack you. One silent, yet nasty, little program that is capable of installing malware on your computer and steal banking information from it is Macro. They enter your computer via malicious Microsoft Office documents and certainly this is mostly outside of your knowledge.
What do Macros do? How are they helpful?
Macros, for the starters, are simple programs that function within some other program and thereby enhance the experience for the user. Using macros, you can easily automate the repetitive functions that you do on an application. For example, if you were using Microsoft Word to prepare a document and there’s a particular brand name that the app is constantly highlighting as incorrect. Or, you have plenty of tables to make with a fixed number of rows and columns, but in different documents. To break the monotony of repeating this task on all the different documents, simply create and run a macro!
That was the useful part of a macro – the nasty part is that one could easily create a macro to download malware. You wouldn’t even know that the executable file you just ran is actually infecting your computer. While you thought it was just a security permission that you gave a green signal to, by allowing the executable file to run, it was in reality up to some other trick.
How do macros help spread malware?
Macros typically enter your device via Microsoft Office documents with malicious macros already set in. These documents could be floating around in your organization, a file that your client just sent via e-mail, or it could be a file that was shared online (Microsoft Office Apps). The VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) language that is used to create macros has the capacity to do a host of other tasks, including downloading malware. Most of the recently discovered vulnerabilities are financial information stealing apps and ransomware such as CryptoWall.
A scam artist could easily create a macro in VBA and program it to download and install a ransomware or some other malware.
How to stay safe of the harmful macros?
Just refrain from enabling macros, unless the ones that are necessary and the source of which you are absolutely sure about. No matter how a document prompts you to install a macro, always look before you confirm. Most companies these days disable macros by default as a precautionary measure; so, remember to check it with your IT team if the macro in the document you’ve just opened is safe to be enabled.