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
googleplus.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

Didn't come to VB2017? Tell us why!

Virus Bulletin is a company - and a conference - with a mission: to further the research in and facilitate the fight against digital threats. To help us in this mission, we want to hear from those who didn't come to Madrid. What is your impression of…

Montreal will host VB2018

Last week, we announced the full details of VB2018, which will take place 3-5 October 2018 at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

VB2017 preview: Beyond lexical and PDNS (guest blog)

In a special guest blog post, VB2017 Silver sponsor Cisco Umbrella writes about a paper that researchers Dhia Mahjoub and David Rodriguez will present at the conference this Friday.

Avast to present technical details of CCleaner hack at VB2017

The recently discovered malicious CCleaner version has become one of the biggest security stories of 2017. Two researchers from Avast, the company that had recently acquired CCleaner developer Piriform, will share the results of their investigations…

VB2017 preview: Walking in your enemy's shadow: when fourth-party collection becomes attribution hell

We preview the VB2017 paper by Kaspersky Lab researchers Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade and Costin Raiu on fourth-party collection and its implications for attack attribution.