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Macro Viruses (Slight Return)

I know I said I wouldn’t write more about macro viruses a number of issues ago, but I couldn’t resist passing on these useful pieces of information.

Michael Gibbs <[email protected]> comments:

An ironic aspect of your warning regarding virus-infected disks from "official" sources is that most application installers recommend that you disable extensions, in many cases disabling your Mac’s immune system. I am in the habit of allowing SAM to check all the installation disks before restarting without extensions.

Michael has an excellent point: checking original disks before installing is a good idea. However, since many application installers store their files in compressed archives which can prevent an anti-virus check from detecting infection, cautious sorts might also want to run a check immediately after installing a new program.

A not-necessarily official Microsoft representative wrote:

The next version of Word for the Macintosh will contain the same level of improved protection as Word 97 for Windows. Word will warn the user when opening any document containing macros and allow the user to open the document without macros enabled. This option is enabled by default. Word will also allow the user to lock and password protect the Normal template at the VBA project level, which prevents any macros from being added to Normal, but does not prevent other customizations, such as styles or toolbar changes. All of this is implemented within Word itself, so does not suffer from the limitations currently in SCANPROT.

Your comment on macros not surviving conversion is absolutely correct. Currently, any and all conversions to or from Word pass through RTF as the interchange format. There has never been (and most likely never will be) a way for macros to be represented in RTF, so therefore any conversions will strip existing macros out of the document. This is actually a simple way for users to disinfect documents – simply save the document out as RTF [also known as Interchange Format in some Save As dialogs -Tonya] and then read it back into Word. The contents of the document itself will be unchanged, but macros, menu customizations, keyboard mappings, and so on will all be stripped out.

Kendall Bullen <[email protected]> offers this tip:

Instead of opening a file that could have a macro, create a new Word document, choose File from the Insert menu, and insert the suspect file into the new document. Word will insert the formatted text just fine, but won’t auto-run any macros that might have executed if you had opened the file normally (you also lose other template information). We’ve used this to "clean" several documents in Word 6, and it’s worked fine for us.

Jonathan Rynd <[email protected]> noted that Padgett Peterson has written a freeware macro scanner for Microsoft Word called MacroList that has worked well in his experience.


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