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Macro Viruses

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want: Working with Words: Word 2007,2010,2013,2016 or españolIcon: Change web


If Word starts behaving very oddly, you may have caught a macro virus. One very irritating virus will let you save your document only as a template! This one is quite common, so right after learning about templates seems a good time to discuss viruses that can infect Word documents and templates.

A macro is a set of directions for Word to do something automatically. Word comes with a long list of macros, including all the things you see done with buttons. You can write your own macro to do a sequence of steps that you do often.

A virus takes advantage of this automation to do nasty things that you don't want to do at all! A macro virus often stores itself in the Normal.dot template. So all new files will be infected.

The first macro virus was found in 1995. Before that, documents and templates could not transmit a computer virus. Now they are everywhere!


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Prevention:

Hide in a cave and don't touch a computer! Or...

Run anti-virus software continuously in the background. Be sure that the anti-virus software can detect and remove macro viruses.

If you receive documents by email, be sure that your anti-virus software checks all email and attachments for viruses as you receive them.


If you suspect you have been infected:

  • Immediately run an anti-virus program that is capable of getting rid of macro viruses. Not all can. 
      
  • Virus check all floppies, removable drives,  and backup media that have been in the infected computer recently. Check any computer that such media have visited after they visited yours. The virus may have already been passed on. 
     
  • If you are on a network, notify the network administrator immediately. The whole network may well have been infected.

Return Disinfected Document to .doc Format

Once you have disinfected the computer, you still must change the template back into a document. The procedure below is awkward but it works.

  1. From the menu, select  File | New . Find the document that is not supposed to be a template.
     
  2. Document radio button in New dialogOpen as a document the template that wasn't supposed to be a template. Be sure you select the Document radio button at the lower right of the dialog.

    You will not be able to just save it as a Word document. That option is grayed out!
     
  3. Select all the contents of the document with the key combo CTRL + A.
     
  4. Copy all.
  5. Open a new blank document by clicking Button - New the New button.
     
  6. Paste to this new blank document.
     
  7. Save as you meant to do to start with.

Some Symptoms:

You may have been infected by a macro virus if any of the following occur:

  • You can save a document only as a template.
     
  • The icon for a document file looks like icon- Word template a template rather than icon-Word document a document.
     
  • When you open a document, a dialog box showing the number 1 appears.
     
  • Some commands no longer show on the menu, like Macro and Customize on the Tools menu.
     
  • New macros appear in the list of macros, like AutoOpen, AutoNew, AutoExec, and FileSaveAs macros. If you already had macros by these names, their contents may have been changed by the macro virus.
     
  • Unusual or unexpected messages appear when you open a Word document or template.
     
  • Text in your document is scrambled or new garbage text appears. 

Macro Warning

Word can warn you every time you open a document that contains a macro. But Word can't tell if this is a macro virus or a useful macro that is an ordinary part of a document.

Icon: Word 97 Icon: Word 2000 To receive this warning, on  Tools  | Options |  General  check the box labeled Macro virus protection.

Icon: Word 2002Icon: Word 2003 In Word 2002/2003 you turn on Macro virus protection and set the degree of security in  Tools |  Options |   Security | Macro security

You can learn the latest about macro viruses from the web site of your anti-virus software. Search Microsoft's Knowledge Base with the phrase macro virus.


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Last updated: 30 Apr 2012