Malware infects Macs through Microsoft Office vulnerability

Rogue emails distribute booby-trapped Microsoft Word file that installs Mac OS Trojan, researchers said

Security researchers have encountered new email-based targeted attacks that exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Office to install a remote access Trojan horse program on Mac OS systems.

The rogue emails appear to target Tibetan activist organizations and distribute booby-trapped Microsoft Word documents that exploit a known remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office for Mac, according to malware experts from security firm AlienVault.

"This is one of the few times that we have seen a malicious Office file used to deliver Malware on Mac OS X," said AlienVault security researcher Jaime Blasco in a blog post on Tuesday.

Security researchers from Mac antivirus vendor Intego believe that the attacks might become more widespread. "This malware is fairly sophisticated, and it is worth pointing out that the code in these Word documents is not encrypted, so any malware writer who gets copies of them may be able to alter the code and distribute their own versions of these documents," they said in a blog post on Thursday.

"The attack will be very effective on those who have not updated their copies of Microsoft Office, or aren't running antivirus software," the Intego researchers said.

If the vulnerability is exploited successfully, the rogue Word files will install a previously unknown Mac OS X Trojan horse. The remote attackers can instruct this malware to download, upload and delete files, or to start a remote shell on the system.

AlienVault believes that this attack was carried out by the same gang that last week distributed a similar Mac Trojan by exploiting a vulnerability in outdated Java installations.

This type of targeted attack, also known as spear phishing, has become common in recent years and is usually associated with government or corporate cyberespionage operations. However, the vast majority of spear phishing emails have so far targeted Windows users.

"While, in the past, we did not see this type of attack targeting Macs, it is clear that the game has changed, and that we are entering a new period of Mac malware," the Intego researchers said.

Mac users are advised to keep the software installed on their computers up to date, especially the popular applications, and to run an antivirus program at all times. Several Mac antivirus products are available for free.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?