Five years ago: Macro viruses still causing hassles

Macro viruses are still causing mayhem
Written by Martin Veitch, Contributor

The latest in the series became apparent last Friday when ON Technology said it had discovered in the wild a new strain of the Laroux virus that infects Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The virus - dubbed 'Laroux B' by ON - is thought to attack Excel versions 5.0 and 7.0.

"If past history is any guide, this virus will spread as rapidly as any other macro virus, and could become a major annoyance as the peak finance, budgeting and analysis season goes into full swing," a spokesman said in a prepared release.

However, a spokesman for a rival anti-virus vendor played down the likely impact of the Laroux variant. "It's just one line of code different [from the original] that has a syntactical bug that causes the system to crash afterwards so it's pretty obvious," said Graham Cluley, senior technical consultant at Dr Solomon's. "The original Laroux was more danagerous because it kept itself pretty quiet - we saw cases in London and Aberdeen."

Cluley said that the 'Wazzu' Microsoft Word macro virus that shipped on Microsoft's Solutions Provider CD-ROM in September was proving more problematic. Named after the popular name for the University of Washington, Wazzu randomly switches words and inserts its own name when infected documents are opened. "Wazzu is much nastier than Laroux. It's rocketing up the charts and is becoming one of the most common viruses of all today, although it's not as widespread as [the original Word macro virus] Concept."

Dr Solomon's also last week reported on its Web site that a Concept variant called WM.Concept.o (also known as WM.Concept3 and WM.Concept.r) is in the wild in Australia and the UK. The virus posts the message "Have a Nice Day!" when the system is exited but doesn't have a destructive payload.

By the end of the year, Dr Solomon's plans to ship MailGuard, a server-based package for SMTP-compliant e-mail that strips out attached viruses and alerts IT staff, saving time that would otherwise have been spent on helpdesk calls. A version for Notes will follow early next year.

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