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Microsoft will disable macros in Excel 4.0



XLM macros will be disabled by default by the end of this year.

Microsoft intends to disable the legacy macro feature in Microsoft Excel 4.0 (XLM) for Microsoft 365 users by the end of this year.

Although XLM macros were replaced by VBA-based macros with the release of Excel 5.0, support for the old feature remains in Microsoft Office Excel software to this day. As with most basic Office tools, these features have been abused by both financially motivated criminals and APT groups over the past decades.

Attackers are increasingly using Microsoft Excel 4.0 documents to distribute malware such as ZLoader and Quakbot. For example, Quakbot malware (also known as QBOT) is capable of downloading other malware, logging user keystrokes, and injecting a backdoor. According to experts, the malware not only tricked users into enabling macros, but also spread with built-in XLM macros that downloaded and executed malicious payload of the second level from a remote server.

In recent months, a number of cybersecurity researchers have publicly criticized Microsoft for the fact that users were at risk of such attacks, and asked the tech giant to disable this feature by default in Office applications. According to experts, companies can re-enable the function for their employees if necessary, while everyone else will remain protected in case they receive an infected Excel file.

While Microsoft will not disable this feature for all users, the company is taking steps to disable the default macros for its paying customers as part of the Microsoft 365 service. In an email sent to Microsoft 365 customers, Microsoft outlined its plan to disable this feature in three steps:

  • For Insiders, the update will take effect at the end of October and complete at the beginning of November.
  • On the current channel, the update will launch in early November and end in mid-November.
  • For Monthly Enterprise Channel (MEC) users, the update will begin and end in mid-December this year.

Customers who want to disable XLM macros (Excel 4.0) right now can do the following actions.

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Vodafone is suing the UK over a contract to develop a hacker-proof communication line



The company considers it unfair that the contract was awarded to Fujitsu, although both bidders did not meet the requirements.

Mobile operator Vodafone filed in court against the UK government after losing a tender to develop a hacker-proof communications system, in which the Japanese company Fujitsu also took part.

Although both bidders were found to have failed to meet the government’s minimum requirements, Vodafone believes Fujitsu was unfairly awarded a £ 184m ($ 254m) contract to improve the communications system used by 532 British embassies and other agencies.

The Echo 2 project aims to provide secure communications for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, employees and agents in over 170 countries.

According to the government, the current communications system operated by Vodafone is “outdated” and poses a risk to national security.

Vodafone went to court after Cable & Wireless, acquired by the operator in 2012, lost its long-term contract for the Echo 1.

“We do not believe that the procurement process was carried out correctly. The contracting authority itself admitted that the Fujitsu Solution was ‘not fit for purpose,’ said a Vodafone spokesman.

According to foreign ministry lawyers, Fujitsu’s proposal had problems with two requirements, but generally met the terms of the tender. Fujitsu representatives did not comment on the situation.

The trial in this case is scheduled for January 2022. The court allowed the UK government to enter into a “conditional contract” with Fujitsu. The details of the contract were not disclosed due to security concerns.

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FIN7 recruits specialists to carry out ransomware attacks



FIN7 created a fictitious information security company with the aim of hiring experts, ostensibly to conduct penetration tests.

It appears that cybercriminal group FIN7 is trying to find a new source of income by joining the ranks of ransomware hackers. In particular, FIN7 created a fictitious information security company with the aim of hiring cybersecurity experts, ostensibly to conduct penetration testing, but in fact – to carry out ransomware attacks.

According to investigation specialists Gemini Advisory (a division of the information security company Recorded Future), the group posted hiring advertisements on the website of a company called Bastion Secure, allegedly specializing in providing penetration testing services to companies and organizations around the world. The “company” was interested in specialists in the field of reverse engineering, system administrators, programmers with knowledge of C ++, Python and PHP. The proposed salary ranged from $ 800 to $ 1200 per month.

Gemini Advisory managed to get an insight into Bastion Secure’s work with the help of an “insider”. As it turned out, job seekers were asked to complete a three-stage interview, which, however, did not include any explanation or legal documents authorizing penetration tests.

In practical terms, applicants were only allowed to use certain tools that were not detectable by security solutions, and to search for backups and file storage systems on the company’s network. At the same time, the tasks set “coincided with the steps taken in the preparation of ransomware attacks.” During the attacks, the ransomware Ryuk or REvil was installed, experts say.

Proposed testing tools included Carbanak and Lizar / Tirion malware, which security experts have linked to FIN7 attacks.

This is not the first time the group has used fictitious companies to attract specialists. For example, a few years ago FIN7 set up a company called Combi Security that looked for pentesters to hack companies’ networks and install malware on PoS terminals.

Although creating and running fictitious companies is a laborious process, hiring an information security expert will cost FIN7 much less than partnering with hackers or hacker groups recruited through cybercriminal forums, which are likely to demand a share of the proceeds from ransomware attacks, the researchers explained.

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US authorities demanded data on patent systems from tech giants



The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a series of information collection orders for payment systems.

The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued a series of collection orders for major payment systems including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal and Square. Chinese payment systems WeChat and AliPay will also be studied, but the CFBP orders will not apply to them.

The directives do not indicate a specific violation, but indicate the intention of the CFPB to become more involved in the regulation of consumer products of technology companies. In particular, the directives are designed to eradicate any data collection or anti-competitive behavior that may not have been detected yet.

According to Reuters, CFPB chief Rohit Chopra called the orders an attempt to prevent technology companies from using payment processing to influence users or gain a competitive advantage over smaller companies.

At present, little is known about how the tech giant will use its payment platforms, Chopra said.

“For example, will payment operators engage in invasive financial research and combine collected customer data with location and browsing data? … Will payment platforms really be neutral, or will they use their scale to generate rents from market participants?” Chopra said.

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