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  • Writer's pictureSteven Burstyn

Macro Viruses

A Macro Virus is a virus that is written in the language used to create specific applications, such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Since a Macro Virus is related to the applications, it can infect files on any operating system that the application runs on. This means that depending on the application the virus is designed for, it can infect files on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

When a Macro Virus attaches itself to a file, and that file is run, the application sees the additional code, called a Macro, and runs it. When run, the virus can attach itself to other files on your computer or even create new files, corrupt or erase stored data, and even format your hard drive. It is even possible that the Macro can send copies of the infected files to everyone on your computer's contact list.

Macro viruses can be spread in a number of ways, with the most common way being through email or shared file storage over a network.

Macro Viruses have been around for a long time, first seen in the wild back in 1995. While other types of viruses and malware have been introduced, including ransomware that encrypts your files until you pay a ransom (and there is no guarantee you will get your files back), Macro Viruses are still a threat. When these viruses were first released, they were mostly targeted at Word and Excel since both applications had powerful macro features. Since Word and Excel were targeted, these viruses were almost exclusively a treat for Windows users.

That is no longer the case since MacDownloader, the first Macro Virus targeting macOS, was discovered in 2017. MacDownloader enabled hackers to use malicious code to steal data, webcam files, passwords, and encryption keys.

How to protect yourself against Macro Viruses.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from these malicious and destructive viruses.

  • Spam Filters – While systems like Gmail have built-in spam filters, corporate email systems must implement strong spam filters. The fewer spam emails that get through, the lower the chance of computers getting infected.

  • Strong Antivirus and Malware Programs – Ensure you are running a strong antivirus system that is regularly updated. Antivirus programs will catch these Macros and warn the user that they have attempted to open an infected file.

  • Keep up to date with patches – While not every patch released is important, you need to keep up to date with security updates released for your operating system and other applications.

  • Use Common Sense with Email – If you receive an email with an attachment that doesn’t look like something that person would normally send to you, chances are that file is infected with a virus. Be wary of most email attachments.

Even though Macro Viruses have been around since 1995, they are still a major threat even today, and you need to protect yourself. Among the services provided by Unfrustrating Computer, we install and monitor a state-of-the-art antivirus and malware program. We keep your computers up to date with the latest security patches. If you have questions about how we can help you protect your business computers, call us at 516-679-5540.

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