Once the most popular way to infect computers, Microsoft Office macros had fallen out of favour as users and anti-malware systems got better at spotting and blocking infected attachments. However, it appears that macro malware is currently enjoying something of a comeback, this time attacking Apple Mac computers.
Macros provide a way for power users to automate common tasks in the Office 365 suite of applications. If you wanted to insert a specific paragraph of text into several documents simultaneously, or to update cells in a spreadsheet as values change, you could use a macro to speed up the process.
Macros can also be used by hackers to automate other tasks, such as downloading external content (like viruses) onto your computer. Macros can also be given elevated privileges, allowing them greater control over your system.
Unsurprisingly, many business and home users disabled Office macros on their Windows PCs to avoid these problems.
Normally Apple computers are immune to Office macro attacks because of the different way that applications are treated by the operating system. But one security researcher has found a way to link a malicious macro with flaws in Mac OS, allowing him to create a ‘back door’ into the infected computer which can be exploited for other purposes, such as stealing personal data.
The hack itself is quite complex, relying on flaws in both Microsoft Office and Mac OS to work. If you install the latest updates for Office 365 or Mac OS Catalina, the exploit will fail and no malware will be installed.
A timely reminder for Office 365 users
Apparently Office macros will always present a potential problem for users. Normally only Windows PC users are affected, but this new exploit is a timely reminder that Apple users should not be complacent either. Although the Mac exploit has brought the topic of macro malware back into the spotlight, it still remains a serious issue for Windows users too.
By far the easiest way to protect yourself against this type of malware is to disable Office 365 macros on your computer. Microsoft has even prepared a handy guide: Enable or disable macros in Office files.
You should also ensure that your computer is protected with an effective anti-malware tool. Panda Dome provides scanning tools for both Windows and Mac computers, allowing you to detect and block suspicious Office files and macros automatically.
By choosing an advanced anti-malware tool, you can prevent macros being launched accidentally. You can also rely on the system to prevent automated download and installation of viruses, malware and other dangerous items.
Macro malware may not be a cutting-edge hacking technique, but it definitely still works. Fortunately, you can take steps that will protect your computer from becoming infected.
Apple user? protect yourself today – download a free trial of Panda Antivirus for Mac and help prevent malicious Office 365 macros from infecting your computer.
Windows user? You don’t have to miss out either – download a free trial of Panda Dome to enjoy automated protection against malicious macros and other malware.