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Viruses hidden in Microsoft Word and Excel files are making a comeback

Viruses hidden in Microsoft Word and Excel files are making a comeback
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Free security software can put a stop to most obvious virus attacks. Of course, that won't stop cybercriminals from trying sneakier ways to invade your system.

The latest sneaky virus to watch out for is an oldie, but it's definitely not a goodie. It targets Microsoft Word and Excel.

Word and Excel both have a system that lets users create "macros." These are little programs that make it easier to do complex or repetitive tasks.

Well, macros also let hackers create viruses that run when you open the wrong Word or Excel file.

Because this used to be such a big threat, Microsoft disabled macros in both Word and Excel by default. In fact, if you open a document with a macro, you'll get a security warning.

That's why the newest round of "macroviruses" needs to trick you into turning macros back on. To do this, hackers create documents that have blurred images.

The file says that the images are blurred for "security reasons" - ironically enough - and you can't see them unless you allow macros to run. Of course, if you turn the macros on, the virus will run and any document you create after that will be infected with the same virus.

Fortunately, this threat is really easy to avoid. Don't open Word and Excel files from people you don't know.

If you do open a file from someone you know and it asks you to turn on macros, don't. Contact the person who sent it and find out why it needs macros to work.

There might be a good reason, but that's usually only for complicated Excel spreadsheets. Otherwise, ask the person to re-save it without macros and send it again.

You could also run the free LibreOffice instead of Office. Word and Excel files open just fine, but macros made in Office don't work in LibreOffice so you'll stay safe.

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