Macro Virus: How They Work, and How to Protect Yourself

macro computer virus

Macro Virus: How They Work, and How to Protect Yourself

Key Points

  • A macro virus is a type of malware.
  • They pose a safety threat because they add their code to existing computer programs, files, spreadsheets, and documents.
  • To avoid getting a computer virus, never open attachments from people you don’t know, and enable safe browsing features on your preferred browser. Do not click on banner ads or downloads.

What is a Macro Virus?

A macro virus is written in the same type of code used to create legitimate programs. Because the malicious code focuses on the applications, it can affect any operating system, making it sometimes challenging to get rid of.

These viruses pose a safety threat because they add their code to macros associated with essential data files, including spreadsheets and documents. The first virus of this type, Concept, appeared in 1995. This virus accidentally ended up on a CD-ROM that Microsoft distributed to hundreds of companies, leading to the software giant disabling the use of macros in its software in 2002.

Macro viruses commonly come about through phishing emails containing attachments with malware. The virus can spread further when users forward the email or otherwise share the attachment. Suspicious links, including banner ads, files shared on a network, and files shared on removable media, may also help spread these viruses.

These viruses are similar to Trojan horses because they have no symptoms until the infected macro uns. Knowing how to avoid these viruses can go a long way.

macro computer virus
Commonly found embedded in documents or as malicious code in word-processing programs, macro viruses allow a computer to do something other than what it’s supposed to do.

Are These Viruses Malware?

Macroviruses are a type of malware. Once downloaded, the malicious code in the attachment activates, potentially allowing the malware to replicate, spread itself to other users courtesy of your address book, and steal passwords, among other things.

As such, prevention is essential, both for home users and business users. A single hacker with access to one of these types of viruses can cause much trouble in a relatively short time. Good cybersecurity practices, such as using antivirus programs, are essential to eliminate this type of virus and stop its effects, as well s knowing how to avoid common risks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Macro Virus Infection?

Macro viruses pose a safety risk for your system because they often go unnoticed. Unless you can recall a recent pop-up requesting that you enable macros, it might not occur to you that there’s a problem.

Many of the symptoms are similar to those of other viruses. The following are some common symptoms:

  • Is the device saving files as templates?
  • Are files requesting passwords they usually wouldn’t?
  • Error messages appearing without good reason
  • Devices running abnormally slowly.

What Are Some Examples of the Harm a Macro Virus Can Cause?

One of the most common examples of the harm a macro virus can cause is replacing commands with malicious code once the device has become infected. This situation allows the computer to do something other than what you need it to do. The effect is as if a hacker had physical control of your device.

When the infection is within a word processing program, the virus can change, add, or delete words without your knowledge. Moving text and adding images are also examples of what these viruses do. These viruses also have the potential to corrupt the hard drive.

Another one of the effects of these viruses is compromising email accounts and emailing people from your contacts. The recipients of these emails will often open the emails because they trust you as a sender.

This video from CyberNews explains Macro Viruses and what you can do to protect yourself.

How Do You Remove a Macro Virus for Good?

Although it is possible to remove a virus manually, this is a task that should only be performed by a professional. An inexperienced user removing a virus could easily cause more damage. When manually removed, this is an activity best left in the hands of a technician familiar with the operating system.

In most cases, the best way to remove one of these viruses is with an anti-virus program. These programs target the infection, offering better safety for the system than unsuccessful manual removal attempts. Using an antivirus application will usually restore the system to health and provide the necessary prevention.

What is the Best Antivirus Software for a Macro Virus?

Most antivirus programs are helpful for macro virus prevention. However, some of these programs have been used to get rid of so many of these viruses over the years that computer users consider them go-to applications.

These include:

Avast Ultimate 2022 | Antivirus+Cleaner+VPN | 10 Devices, 1 Year [PC/Mac/Mobile Download]
  • Compatible with Windows (7, 8, 8.1, 10, and 11), Mac OS (10.12 Sierra and later), Android (6.0 and later), iOS (13.0 and later)
  • Additional features like a password manager, firewall, VPN, and web protection
  • Blocks spam and phishing emails
  • Protects your photos and personal files
  • Does not auto-renew unless you sign up for it
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 03:25 am GMT
Great Features
Bitdefender Total Security 2023 – Complete Antivirus and Internet Security Suite – 5 Devices | 2 year Subscription | PC/Mac | Activation Code by Mail
  • Rated #1 by PC Mag for 2023
  • Compatible with Windows (8.0, 8.1, 10, and 11), Mac (macOS X Yosemite 10.10 and later), iOS (11.2 and later), and Android (5.0 and later)
  • Dedicated browser secures your online transactions
  • Advanced features like web protection tools, parental controls, file shredder, firewall, VPN, and anti-tracker
  • Will not automatically renew
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/22/2024 04:44 am GMT
Webroot Internet Security Plus | Antivirus Software 2023 |3 Device | 1 Year Download for PC/Mac/Chromebook/Android/IOS + Password Manager
  • POWERFUL, LIGHTNING-FAST ANTIVIRUS: Protects your computer from viruses and malware through the cloud; Webroot scans faster, uses fewer system resources and safeguards your devices in real-time by...
  • IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION AND ANTI-PHISHING: Webroot protects your personal information against keyloggers, spyware, and other online threats and warns you of potential danger before you click
  • ALWAYS UP TO DATE: Webroot scours 95% of the internet three times per day including billions of web pages, files and apps to determine what is safe online and enhances the software automatically...
  • SUPPORTS ALL DEVICES: Compatible with PC, MAC, Chromebook, Mobile Smartphones and Tablets including Windows, macOS, Apple iOS and Android
  • NEW SECURITY DESIGNED FOR CHROMEBOOKS: Chromebooks are susceptible to fake applications, bad browser extensions and malicious web content; close these security gaps with extra protection specifically...
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02/22/2024 10:04 pm GMT
McAfee AntiVirus Protection Plus 2022 | 10 Device | Internet Security Software | Windows/Mac/Android/iOS | 1 Year Subscription | Download Code
  • AWARD-WINNING ANTIVIRUS: Rest easy knowing McAfee's protecting you from the latest threats
  • BANK, SHOP AND CONNECT WORRY-FREE: Be warned about risky websites before you click
  • SECURE YOUR ACCOUNTS: Generate and store complex passwords with a password manager
  • BROWSE CONFIDENTLY ACROSS DEVICES: Protect multiple devices with one subscription
  • 24-HOUR SUPPORT: Get free customer support via phone, chat or online
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/22/2024 11:23 am GMT

How Do You Avoid Macro Viruses and Malicious Code?

Antivirus software and following cybersecurity best practices will help you avoid becoming infected with one of these viruses. The best suggestions to avoid getting a virus include never opening attachments from people you don’t know and enabling the safe browsing features on your preferred browser.

Sometimes these viruses infect computers through banner ads from malicious sites. Avoiding downloads from unknown sites is also a good practice. If there is no logical reason for a page to require a download, it is best avoided.

Are you interested in learning about other computer viruses? Check out our complete guide!


Frequently Asked Questions

How do macro viruses work?

Macro viruses embed malicious code from a hacker into a file. Spreadsheets and word processing programs are among the types of data most commonly infected. These viruses are a cybersecurity concern because they spread when opened.

What can prevent macro virus attacks?

Besides having antivirus software, there are a few ways to get rid of a macro virus threat. Keeping all security patches up-to-date and macros disabled on Microsoft Office can help prevent some of the worst infections. Avoiding phishing emails and suspicious attachments is also a good idea, as well as avoiding clicking on banner ads.

What is an example of a macro virus?

One of the most famous examples of a macro virus was the Melissa virus which emerged in 1999. The effects of this virus included rapid propagation because it sent itself to the first 50 people in the recipient’s email address book. Like today’s macro viruses, this virus relied on a document sent as an attachment.

Who created the macro virus?

The first macro virus known to have caused widespread trouble, Melissa, was created by a programmer named David L. Smith. Although the creators of many of these viruses circulating today are unknown, their motives are often financial, seeking access to accounts with personal information. Most of these viruses today circulate at the hands of sophisticated cybercrime rings.

Where does a macro virus come from?

A macro virus often comes from an infected attachment. Knowing how to avoid unsafe files is a critical step in preventing infection.

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