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Word documents being used in new attacks

I have repeatedly pointed out (e.g., this post) to people that sending Word files as attachments is a bad idea. This has been used many, many times to circulate viruses, worms, and more. People continue to push back because (basically) it is convenient for them. How often have we heard that convenience trumps good security (and good sense)?

Now comes this story of yet another attack being spread with Word documents.

There are multiple reasons why I don’t accept Word documents in email. This is simply one of the better reasons.

If you want to establish a sound security posture at your organization, one of the things you should mandate is no circulation of executable formats—either out or in. “.doc” files are in this category. I am unsure if the new “.docx” format is fully immune to these kinds of things but it seems “.rtf” is.


Think OpenOffice is the solution?  Think again.

In my last post, I ranted about a government site making documents available only in Word.  A few people have said to me “Get over it—use OpenOffice instead of the Microsoft products.”  The problem is that those are potentially dangerous too—there is too much functionality (some of it may be undocumented, too) in Word (and Office) documents.

Now, we have a virus specific to OpenOffice.  We’ve had viruses that run in emulators, too.  Trying to be compatible with something fundamentally flawed is not a security solution.  That’s also my objection to virtualization as a “solution” to malware.

I don’t mean to be unduly pejorative, but as the saying goes, even if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.

Word and the other Office components are useful programs, but if MS really cared about security, they would include a transport encoding that didn’t include macros and potentially executable attachments—and encourage its use!  RTF is probably that encoding for text documents, but it is not obvious to the average user that it should be used instead of .doc format for exchanging files.  And what is there for Excel, Powerpoint, etc?