Microsoft Word Exploit Used to Install Malware on Computers

If you assumed that today’s cyberthreat risk had gone down, think again: security experts revealed last week that hackers have figured out a way to exploit a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Word. This allows malware to be surreptitiously installed, even on computers and networks that users thought were protected.

This zero-day vulnerability, defined as a gap in software that’s unknown to the vendor and exploited by hackers before the vendor becomes aware and hurries to fix it, is different from past Microsoft Office attacks in that it is not delivered via macro files. Instead, the infiltration is conducted by tricking a computer user into opening a Word document that will download a malicious application from an illicit server.

Like many past ransomware instances, this cybercrime is disguised in a standard-looking .rtf text file that gives hackers access to a computer. They can then run a script that quietly installs malware, avoiding many security measures designed to prevent these kinds of attacks. While the attack relies on Word documents, similar strategies can also be used to embed infected files in other Office applications like Excel and PowerPoint.

Researchers at McAfee and FireEye reported the discovery last week, but only after coordinating the release of information with Microsoft, who immediately issued a fix for the bug as part of its monthly release of security patches. Attacks were detected all the way back to January, although details on the specific malware strains, number of users affected, and origin of the hacking are still unclear.

The good news? If you have a trusted IT partner on your side keeping a 24/7 watch on the computers, laptops, networks, and servers at your company, the security patch released by Microsoft to address the vulnerability will be automatically deployed. In addition, any computer users that have Office Protected View activated within Microsoft Word would be shielded from the exploit.

That’s why it’s so important to employ robust online security for your systems. At CMIT Solutions, we specialize in proactive maintenance and monitoring, reliable and remote data backup, and a multi-layered approach to keeping users safe from the most dangerous strains of malware, ransomware, email compromise, and other phishing attempts.

Looking for more information on recent vulnerabilities like this one? Concerned that your version of Microsoft Office may have been exploited by cybercriminals? Afraid that any of your computers may be infected by malware? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We worry about IT security so you can concentrate on running and growing your business.

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