First things first. Malicious office documents are typical electronic files that contain damaging macros. Macros are multiple commands bundled together to execute tasks. These documents can be in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Office, Google Docs, PDF or any file that can be attached to an email. Once opened, the document’s macros code does the harm its creator intended it to do.
At a time when even the less technically savvy employees among us have the fear of cybercrime drilled into them, how are malicious office documents gaining traction as the latest serious threat to corporate networks?
Cybercrime has been on the rise since the pandemic took workers out of the office and into their home offices. Home offices can lack the level of cybersecurity as businesses have. Even though it looked for a while as if employees would be heading back to work, increasing case numbers and variants changed, and cybercrime rates continue to creep up.
Malicious office documents are attached to emails, which can be set to appear to come from someone the employees know or recognize. This makes them different than links that require a recipient to click on them in order to unleash their destructive malware or spyware. Not to mention, these documents can dodge antivirus software detection.
Malicious Office Documents Unleash Their Damaging Macros
Opening these documents activates the malign malware they contain and infects the employee’s computer. If that computer is connected to the company network, it too becomes infected. From that point, any antivirus software can be disabled, data taken for ransom (ransomware) and private information stolen.
Ransomware locks computer files and the hacker sends a demand for ransom, promising a key to unlock data once the ransom is paid. Whether that key is sent isn’t a given by any means. Backing up your files using an air-gapped tape system is one way to avoid ransomware attacks, since data can be restored from the back up. However, that doesn’t stop hackers from threatening to or releasing sensitive, proprietary or confidential data to the public anyway unless the ransom is paid.
How to Protect Your Business from Malicious Office Documents
Ongoing education is the best defense against destructive macros found in malicious office documents and the ensuing cyberattack. Here are six ways to keep security on top of employees’ minds.
- Keep employees up to date on the risks involved any time they use a device for work. Some may not even be aware of malicious office documents.
- Provide formal training on email security and cybersecurity in general, covering ransomware, phishing and other common ways hackers infiltrate networks.
- Give clear and easy-to-follow next steps should employees be suspicious of a link or email.
- Develop and follow a company-wide cyber safety plan that includes both in-office and work-from-home protocols.
- Give employees the tools and technology required to work safely anywhere, such as authentication apps, anti-virus software, etc.
- Ask your team to disable macros in their Microsoft Office applications.
Like Some Help with Dealing with the Malicious Office Document Threat?
Our cybersecurity expertise can help defend your company from malign macros. By effectively managing access and even helping train your team, we’ll help prevent potential threats from affecting your network. Contact us for more information.