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Attackers Slipping Past Corporate Defenses with Macros and Cloud Hosting

Macro malware is a good example of malware writers and distributors using old tricks that most users have forgotten to spread malware. Unlike earlier macro malware, these macros don’t infect other documents but download password stealing trojans and install them on targets. Macro malware typically arrives via email with an attachment that contains a macro-based phishing attack in the form of an MS Office document (usually Word or Excel). The malicious code is written using the older Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) scripting language.

What makes the current versions of macro malware particularly dangerous is that the code is often heavily obfuscated, making detection difficult. Furthermore, once the document is opened and macros are enabled, the malware installs and begins to monitor Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox browser activities with the capability of grabbing screenshots and logging keystrokes. The attacker’s ultimate goal is stealing these login credentials that give access to corporate and financial data.

Distribution of malware by email using malicious Word and Excel files containing macros is on the rise. Popular malware used by cyber criminals including Dridex, Vawtrack, Betabot, and Rovnix have been distributed using this tactic. Based on data analyzed by Cisco Managed Threat Defense Team, email attacks where macros are the method of infection are up 50% from February and have more than doubled since October of last year.

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Email Attacks per Month

Keep reading to learn more about Email Attacks Using Malicious Macros

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Cisco Live!: Threat-Centric Security from Networks to Data Centers to Clouds

Security has emerged as a leading pain point for CIOs, executives, and even in the boardroom due to changing business models and growing attack surfaces, a threat landscape that is more dynamic by the day and the increasing complexity of IT environments.

With these challenges as a backdrop, attendees of our 25th annual Cisco Live! event last week in San Francisco absorbed over 170 hours of security-focused material, including hands-on labs, seminars, technical breakouts, panel discussions, and keynotes. This overwhelming amount of time and effort is a testament to Cisco’s commitment to protecting our customers against the latest threats across the full attack continuum—before, during, and after an attack.

In case you could not attend or make a session, particular highlights from the week included Chris Young and Bryan Palma’s keynote (must create Cisco Live account to view) examining the security challenges brought about by the Internet of Everything. Chief architect Martin Roesch also led a session exploring threat-centric security, examining the modern threat landscape, and how threat-centric security increases the effectiveness of threat prevention.

From a product perspective, momentum continued as we announced major updates and new products during Cisco Live! to help our customers address their security needs across the attack continuum with protection from the network to the data center to the endpoint to the cloud.

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Threading the Needle on Privacy and Malware Protection

We have been clear that we have a distinct approach to Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), specifically the unique way in which we leverage the compute and storage capabilities of the public cloud. Doing so enables us to do a great number of things to help customers more effectively fight malware, particularly when compared to traditional, point-in-time anti-malware systems of the past 20 years.

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Executing on our Vision: Cisco’s Comprehensive Advanced Malware Protection

The increased scrutiny on security is being driven by the evolving trends of expanding networks, mobility, cloud computing and a threat landscape that is more dynamic than ever. A combination of these factors has led to an increase in attack access points and a re-definition of the traditional network perimeter.

Due to these concerns, we have been strong proponents of threat-centric security that lets defenders address the full attack continuum and all attack vectors to respond at any time — before, during, and after attacks.

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Intelligent Cybersecurity at Cisco Live

We are all struggling with the Security problem today. Zero-day attacks and advanced persistent threats have outpaced the capabilities of traditional security methods that rely exclusively on single-point-in-time detection and blocking. There is a tremendous amount of complexity in our environments and security expertise is in short supply. At the same time, the movement to an Internet of Everything (IoE) is accelerating and creating significant opportunities for businesses and attackers alike as more people, processes, data, and things come online.

This is why Cisco is steadfast in its charge of a threat-centric security model that addresses the full attack continuum – before, during, and after an attack.

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