Preventing Microsoft Word Macro Viruses

Although our focus is on WordPress... we often get questions from our clients about non-WordPress virus and hack issues.

Here are some thoughts on common questions we get about MS Word viruses.

Microsoft Word malware rarely makes the news these days but unfortunately it exists. Word files received from other computers or a network carry a risk. Just because you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer doesn't mean you're a 100% safe. They can't do anything until an update comes with a patch to fix the problem.

To protect yourself from a Word macro virus you first need to know what is.

What is a Word Macro Virus?

Word has a powerful feature which lets you create Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programs– also known as macros. Macro viruses use this feature to copy the virus's code to other files. VBA programs are stored in the Word document and template files.

The virus duplicates the code automatically to another file, usually Normal.dot, which is what Word loads with every file. So whenever you open or close the Word file or Microsoft Word itself, the virus copies itself.

Microsoft Word Macro Virus

Prevention

  • Document all files in the Word file's startup folder and macros (if you don't know how to find Word's startup folder, use this quick tutorial). Write down the list of files and macros somewhere or take a screenshot and save it in a memorable place on your hard drive.
  • If you think you've caught a macro virus, then you can then check for viruses manually. Go to Tools> Macro> Macros in Word's menu and a list of macros will be displayed. Compare these against the list you created earlier. Pay extra attention to any macros named AutoExec, AutoOpen, AutoClose, FileExit, FileNew, FileOpen, FileSave, FileSaveAs, and ToolsMacro.
  • In Word 97, you need to manually enable virus protection against macros. In the Word menu, go to Tools> Options, click on the General tab, and check the box for Macro virus protection (it might already by checked).
  • In Word 2000, you can set the security setting by going to Tools> Macro> Security and setting the security level to medium. It will automatically warn you if you are opening a file that contains a macro.

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