Macro Viruses

By: Jesse Miller

In recent years, the number of viruses encountered at corporate sites has risen dramatically. Virtually all of this increase is due to the proliferation of one of the newest types of virus. They make up two-thirds of all the computer viruses.

They are particularly threatening for a number of reasons. It is platform independent and it can effect every configuration of yours. Any hardware platform and operating system can be infected. They infect documents, non executable portions of code.

Most of the information introduced onto a computer system is in the form of a document rather than a program. They spread very easily. In a fraction of second your system gets affected and information which is deemed to be confidential is lost. A very common method is by electronic mail. A download or attachment can do the worst damage you ever imagined.

They take advantage of a feature found in spreadsheets and word processors which is known as macro. Macro is an executable program embedded in a word processing document or other type of file. Macro is used to automate repetitive tasks. The macro language is some sort of Basic programming language.

What makes it possible to create a macro virus is the auto executing macro. This is a macro that is automatically invoked, without explicit user input. Common auto executive events are opening a file, and starting an application. Once a macro is running, it can copy itself to other documents, delete files, and cause other sorts of damage to the user`s system.

An auto macro or command macro is attached to a word document that is introduced into a system by email or disk transfer. At some point after the document is opened, the macro executes. The macro copies itself to the global macro file. When the next session of word opens, the infected global macro is active. When this macro executes, it can replicate itself and cause damage.

Various antivirus product vendors have also developed tools to detect and correct macro viruses. As in other types of viruses, the arms race continues in the field of macro viruses. Three types of auto executing macros which are common in word processors are auto execute, auto macro, and command macro.

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Auto execute is started when word is started. Auto macro executes when a defined event occurs, such as opening or closing a document, creating a new document or quitting.

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