Macro viruses make a return in targeted attacks

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jan 31, 2014

Macros disabled in modern versions of Office, but enabled within many organisations.

A report by the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC, the Dutch CERT) points to a resurgence of macro viruses in targeted attacks.

Macro viruses are viruses that are written in a software's built-in macro language. They were very common in the late 1990s, and usually exploited the ability of Microsoft Office to store commonly executed patterns in macros. Macros can be called by certain key-strokes or mouse-clicks, but also automatically - for instance when a document is opened.

In modern versions of Office, the ability to record and execute macros is disabled by default, and thus macro viruses have ceased to be a problem for most home users. However, the NCSC notes that many organisations have macros enabled - for instance to support corporate house styles.

This situation is being abused by some advanced persistent threats: many APT attacks start with someone at the targeted organisation receiving an email with a malicious document attached to it. The NCSC reports that in some cases, macros in these attachments are being used to download malware onto the target's system.

The NCSC notes that these attacks are very targeted and thus the term 'macro virus' might be slightly inappropriate. Moreover, a hesitance among victims to report the attacks and low detection by anti-virus software means it is hard to get an accurate picture of how prevalent they are.

The report, which so far has only been published in Dutch, can be downloaded here.

Posted on 31 January 2014 by Martijn Grooten

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

VB2019 paper: Operation Soft Cell - a worldwide campaign against telecommunication providers

Today we publish the VB2019 paper by Cybereason researchers Mor Levi, Amit Serper and Assaf Dahan on Operation Soft Cell, a targeted attack against telecom providers around the world.

VB2019 paper: A study of Machete cyber espionage operations in Latin America

At VB2019 in London a group of researchers from the Stratosphere Lab at the Czech Technical University in Prague presented a paper in which they analysed and dissected the cyber espionage activities of an APT group in Latin America through the…

VB2019 paper: The push from fiction for increased surveillance, and its impact on privacy

In a paper presented at VB2019 in London, researchers Miriam Cihodariu (Heimdal Security) and Andrei Bogdan Brad (Code4Romania) looked at how surveillance is represented in fiction and how these representations are shaping people's attitudes to…

VB2019 paper: Oops! It happened again!

At VB2019 in London industry veterans Righard Zwienenberg and Eddy Willems took a detailed look at the relationship between past and current cyber threats. Today, we publish both their paper and the recording of their presentation.

Job vacancy at VB: Security Evangelist

Virus Bulletin is recruiting for a person to be the public face of the company

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.