How to Protect Yourself From Microsoft Word Malware

98602 How to Protect Yourself From Microsoft Word Malware

Microsoft Word is one of the most popular word processing programs and is used by millions of people worldwide. However, Word documents can also be used to spread malware if proper precautions are not taken. In this article, we will discuss what makes Word documents vulnerable, the different types of Word malware, and most importantly, the steps you can take to protect yourself.

What Makes Word Documents Vulnerable

Word documents, especially the newer .docx format, support various features that allow documents to contain dynamic content. This includes macros, ActiveX controls, embedded objects, and external links. While useful, these features can be exploited to hide malicious code.

In particular, macros written in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) are a common target. Malicious macros can install malware, destroy files, and steal sensitive information without the user’s knowledge on opening the document.

Types of Word Malware

There are several common types of malware that can infect Word documents:

Macro Viruses

These viruses specifically target the VBA macro functionality in Word. They replicate by attaching copies of themselves to documents and templates.

Worms

Worms are self-replicating malware that spreads by sending copies of themselves as email attachments or via network shares. Word worms may exploit the VBA macro feature or other vulnerabilities.

Trojan Horses

Trojans disguise themselves as harmless Word documents, like invoices or reports. But they run malicious scripts upon opening to install backdoors, keyloggers, spyware or ransomware.

Protecting Yourself from Word Malware

Here are crucial tips to secure yourself from getting infected by Word malware:

1. Be Wary of Unsolicited Files

Never open unexpected Word docs sent over email, Slack or social media, especially with generic names like “Document.docx”. They have a higher chance of being malicious.

2. Disable Macros

By default, macros are disabled in modern Word versions. If you must enable macros, only do so for trusted files after scanning with antivirus software.

3. Hold Down Shift Key

When opening suspicious docs in Word 365, hold down the Shift key to block potentially malicious macros from running.

4. Open in Protected View

In Word 365, enable Protected View to open untrusted docs in isolated sandbox mode, blocking unsafe actions.

5. Install Antivirus Software

Use reputed antivirus software like Windows Defender to scan Word files before opening. They can detect and remove many types of malware.

6. Keep Software Updated

Always keep Word, Windows and antivirus software updated to the latest versions. Updates often patch vulnerabilities used to spread malware.

7. Backup Important Files

Maintain regular backups of critical files in disconnected external storage to avoid permanent data loss if infected by ransomware.

8. Consider Alternative Formats

When possible, request or distribute files in safer formats like PDF instead of Word docs to minimize malware risks.

Conclusion

While Word documents offer useful features, they also pose security risks if all precautions are not taken. We hope this overview gave you a good understanding of how to secure yourself from the threat of Word malware trying to infect your system. Be vigilant when opening Word files and follow our tips to minimize chances of infection.

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