Cybercriminals are Using Microsoft Office Documents to Spread Malware in Business Environments

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Cybercriminals are Using Microsoft Office Documents to Spread Malware in Business Environments

Microsoft Office provides tools for creating professional reports, college essays, CVs, and notes on Office 365. It offers text and data editing features, including macros and Python scripting in Excel, facilitating automatic data updates.

However, these functionalities can also be exploited for phishing and malware attacks, earning them the label of potential cyber weapons. Recently, cybersecurity researchers at COFENSE found that hackers have been actively using Microsoft Office documents to distribute malware in business environments.

Cybercriminals are Using Microsoft Office Documents to Spread Malware

For instance, attackers could leverage simple links as attack vectors, and vulnerabilities like “CVE-2017-11882” and “CVE-2017-0199” could be exploited through QR codes.

Malicious macros hidden within Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code execute automatically upon file opening.

Threat actors distribute these documents by impersonating brands through email and cloud-sharing services. These threats are prevalent and warrant vigilance from businesses to safeguard users.

Office documents remain a prime target for threat actors, who use embedded links, QR codes, and malicious macros to deliver credential phishing schemes and malware payloads.

Ordinary-looking document links can lead to phishing pages, while QR codes pose challenges to security controls.

Exploiting Office’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), malicious actors automate malware execution through macros upon opening altered files.

Despite the method employed, these attacks take advantage of the widespread use of Office apps, necessitating heightened user awareness and robust security measures to counter risks from seemingly innocuous documents.

In 2022, Microsoft rolled out security updates that default to blocking unauthorized macros in Office files, requiring user permission to enable potentially harmful programs.

Nevertheless, some hackers continue to utilize VBA macros to initiate malware assaults, exploiting instances where users overlook these warnings.

Macro payloads frequently utilize PowerShell to fetch and execute malicious software from different URLs during various stages of an attack.

While law enforcement efforts have curbed major botnets, once prolific threats like Emotet, macro-based attacks persist as a significant danger. Malware-infected Office macros continue to thrive, exploiting social engineering tactics to evade Microsoft’s macro restrictions. Therefore, users must remain vigilant and bolster their systems with robust security measures to mitigate associated risks.

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