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Today’s Big Question: What is a Macro Virus?

November 12, 2015

Macro viruses begin by opening phony attachments—make sure your business is vigilant when it comes to email security.

Looks like cyber criminals are regressing back to the ‘90s with the recent comeback of macro viruses, which are nasty bugs that begin by opening malicious word documents and excel spreadsheets attached to emails. A macro virus will wreak havoc on your computer system because of its ability to spread quickly, replicate, and infect other computers-- so you will want to take note of security precautions to defend against one before your system is attacked.

What is a macro?

A macro is a set of commands that you can use to automate a repeated task on a word document or excel spreadsheet. A macro virus, as you can imagine, uses this automation function to corrupt your entire system—and quickly at that.

Defending against a macro virus

Protecting yourself and your business against a macro virus begins with extreme caution opening email attachments. In addition to this, you will want to be sure to:

  1. Always open docs in “read only” mode.
  2. Never click on phishing links in banner ads or URLs.
  3. Disable all macros on your system. If (when opening a document) you are prompted to “enable macros”, make sure that there is a trustworthy sender behind the attachment(s).
  4. Use your reasoning before opening an attachment that appears to be from a co-worker. Double check that it is indeed your coworker sending the attachment by asking him/her in person. A criminal could be using your co-worker’s display name to disguise a malicious email address.
  5. Consider using digital signatures. Digital signatures encrypt documents with digital codes that are very unique and difficult to duplicate. With a digital signature, you are able to identify the source of a download or a file’s author so you can make sure that the files running on your computer are clean and coming from a reliable source.

Warning signs that you may have been attacked

Besides the fact that a macro virus will make your computer run much slower than normal, take note of these other warning signs:

  • Password protected files- Look for strange behavior on your system—if you are prompted to fill in a password for a file that you know is not password protected—your system could be infected.
  • Frequent error messages
  • Documents automatically saving as template files

Getting rid of a macro virus

Sometimes, every defense is not enough against the tricks of a computer hacker, so what happens when your computer is unfortunately infected with a macro virus?

There is security software that detects macro viruses by scanning your system regularly. When you are infected, the system will clean infected documents and make sure that the system is not downloading any new viruses. If you do not have an antivirus program installed, be sure to implement one immediately (and make sure it is updated regularly).

Questions? Contact us.

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