COVID-19 Health and Safety Information

MacroVirus

Macro VirusMelissaMacroVirus

A macro is a type of script that automates repetitive tasks in Microsoft Office applications (such as Word, Excel). Macros are a useful way to make some tasks perform more efficiently. Unfortunately, macro viruses perform the same functions as macros, but they tend to be harmful. For example in March 1999, the Melissa macro virus caused Microsoft to shut down the company's entire email service. Melissa spread rapidly and arrived as an attachment with the subject line "Important message from [name of someone]." The body text read, "Here is that document you asked for...don't show anyone else." If the recipient opened the attachment, the macro virus infected the computer and carried out a series of commands. Melissa was a fast-spreading virus, infecting more than 100,000 computers in the first few days. Macro viruses remain a threat today, but the good news is that the user must perform some action for the virus to be activated; therefore, educating users not to open the attachment is essential. Most modern operating systems and office suites do not automatically run macros, so the threat from macro viruses is reduced.

Defenses

User Awareness and Information Security Training: Empowering the user is always the first line of defense. Diligent and educated users will automatically be wary of file attachments. While macro viruses require user intervention, giving permission for the code to run, social engineering tactics attempt to entice and trick the user into performing this step. Strong user awareness and training is paramount - users must be diligent and even a little fearful when it comes to email attachments.

Anti-Virus / Anti-Malware End-Point Protection: Not just for viruses, anti-virus software can also scan Microsoft Office file type attachments such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. There are many free anti-virus solutions for home users, for Windows, Linux and Macintosh computers. Regardless of the operating system you use, anti-virus is a must-have. This protection provides a second layer of defense, and will intervene if the computer user (or some background program process) attempts to execute or interact with a virus. Furthermore, anti-virus solutions typically quarantine the malicious program, placing it in an isolated location which can allow for further review by a technician or information security practitioner.