If you receive an email from someone with an attachment (Word, Excel or PDF) with instructions on it to open the document and then enable Macros, would you do it? This is where you’re supposed to answer with ‘No.’ To take it a step further, what if it was from someone you knew really well – would you open it then? (Hint: the answer is still no.)
If you’re a user of Macros then I can see why you might be inclined to do this. If you’re not, then you should be asking yourself, “Why would someone be sending me a document that requires me to enable Macros? I don’t even know what a Macro is.”
What is a Macro anyway? A Macro is a shortcut to a set of commands used within a program such as Excel or Word that can be recalled using a single keyboard stroke, thus saving the creator of the document a lot of time. Macros are really useful in complex documents with lots of information.
Now back to the question at hand: To open and enable or not?
Here’s why you should think twice about it: Hackers are trying all sorts of ways to get a nasty virus/malware or ransomware on your network. One of the newer techniques is to embed these executables within documents using Macros.
Why do they do this? It’s very difficult for network anti-virus programs to scan for these malicious links because they are hidden within a file that is within a file. It’s kind of like the Russian Matryoshka dolls – hiding inside each doll is another one. The only catch for the hackers is that they need you to enable Macros so their evil plan can take effect.
What makes it harder to identify is that hackers have also figured out how to pose as someone you recognize, so often the document containing bad stuff looks like it’s coming from an email you know well.
So, the rule of thumb here is simple: do not enable Macros on any attachments you receive via email. If you do think it’s real, do yourself a favor and pick up the telephone and call the person who sent it to you to confirm. Do not email for confirmation – sometimes the hacker is operating within the sender’s email so of course you’ll get an immediate confirmation that the file is fine to open. Don’t allow Macros on attachments without voice confirmation from the sender, and you’ll significantly reduce your risk of contracting something nasty via email.