Cybercriminals Widely Abusing Excel 4.0 Macro to Distribute Malware

Danger actors are more and more adopting Excel 4. files as an preliminary stage vector to distribute malware these kinds of as ZLoader and Quakbot, according to new analysis.

The findings arrive from an examination of 160,000 Excel 4. files between November 2020 and March 2021, out of which more than 90% were classified as destructive or suspicious.

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“The major threat for the focused companies and persons is the reality that stability options continue to have a lot of troubles with detecting malicious Excel 4. documents, earning most of these slip by conventional signature primarily based detections and analyst published YARA policies,” scientists from ReversingLabs mentioned in a report posted today.

Excel 4. macros (XLM), the precursor to Visible Simple for Apps (VBA), is a legacy characteristic integrated in Microsoft Excel for backward compatibility motives. Microsoft warns in its help doc that enabling all macros can result in “probably dangerous code” to operate.

The at any time-evolving Quakbot (aka QBOT), considering the fact that its discovery in 2007, has remained a infamous banking trojan capable of stealing banking qualifications and other fiscal facts, though also getting worm-like propagation capabilities. Typically distribute through weaponized Office environment files, variants of QakBot have been equipped to supply other malware payloads, log person keystrokes, and even generate a backdoor to compromised machines.

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In a doc analyzed by ReversingLabs, the malware not only tricked users into enabling macros with convincing lures, but also arrived with embedded files that contains XLM macros that obtain and execute a destructive next-phase payload retrieved from a remote server. Yet another sample provided a Base64-encoded payload in a person of the sheets, which then tried to download further malware from a sketchy URL.

“Even even though backward compatibility is pretty important, some things should have a life expectancy and, from a protection standpoint, it would in all probability be greatest if they ended up deprecated at some place in time,” the researchers pointed out. “Price of sustaining 30 12 months previous macros really should be weighed against the security pitfalls applying this kind of outdated engineering delivers.”

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