Do you know what fashion trends have in common with malware? They both seem to repeat themselves and they are always bad. (High-waisted acid wash jean shorts—ah my eyes!)

beefydogshorts

There are two types of malware that have returned recently: macros and ransomware.

Macros are programs that are embedded into documents to perform specific tasks. Macros aren’t inherently bad, and are actually quite useful for doing repetitious tasks within applications like word or excel. But someone with nefarious intent (like a criminal hacker) can create a malicious macro to do any number of things like embedding itself into other documents, installing software without the users consent, and emailing itself to all your contacts.

Ransomware is a malicious program that once installed on your machine will encrypt all of your data and any data on the network that it can get access too. It is called ransomware because you will see a popup screen that demands you to pay to have your files unencrypted.

How do you avoid macros?

starkquestion

Macro security has improved significantly over the years; for example Microsoft created a new naming system in 2007 to help identify files with or without macros. Any file that had the extension .docx was a regular file and a file that contained the extension .docm had embedded macros. But, even that isn’t full proof so follow these steps to help avoid malicious macros.

1. NEVER download an attachment from an UNKNOWN sender.

This is the easiest way to avoid malware of all types really.

2. VERIFY before you download an attachment from a KNOWN sender.

The person who sent you the attachment might have been a victim of a malicious macro, so call them up to make sure they really did send you the file.

3. DO NOT ENABLE macros unless you are 100% positive they are legit and safe.

Don’t take the risk. Just don’t do it.

How do you avoid ransomware?

ransomcomputer

Ransomware can be contracted through downloaded email attachments, by clicking on links, and even by macros. The best way to avoid ransomware is to follow these steps.

1. NEVER download an attachment from an UNKNOWN sender.

Just like fashion trends, this rule repeats itself.

2. VERIFY before you download an attachment from a KNOWN sender.

Oh look another repeating trend. The sender will appreciate your security awareness, so verify away.

3. DO NOT CLICK on links in emails.

Hover your mouse over the links first to see if they are what they really say they are.

4. BACKUP your files frequently.

Make redundant backups of all your important files both on and offline. If you do manage to catch ransomware, their threats will be irrelevant because you have duplicate files, and there will be no need to pay up. Dogs however cannot be duplicated so easily, so you might have to pay their ransom.

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Those steps, and always following your company’s policies, are the easiest ways to avoiding macros, ransomware, and other forms of malware.

Justin Bonnema

Lead Writer at SAC
Justin left the music business to focus on his true passion: writing. A talented writer and detailed researcher, he’s involved in every department here at SAC to make sure all content is fresh and up-to-date. In his spare time, Justin writes about fantasy football for FootballGuys.com and practices mixology (he makes a mean margarita).