Hackers Now Use a Different Method to Infect Networks

Recent reports suggest that online crime rates have seen a notable increase since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It has been speculated that cybercriminals have been exploiting the remote working infrastructure put in place by many organizations, utilizing the lack of security measures in place in some home offices compared to that of traditional office buildings. As such, it is essential for employers to ensure their staff are sufficiently protected and secure in an online environment.

TechRepublic has reported that malicious office papers are the latest trend in cybercrime conduct, in light of businesses postponing their office re-entry plans and continuing to work remotely due to COVID-19. Phishing and ransomware are still commonly used methods by cybercriminals; however, they are also exploring new approaches.

Electronic files can be infected with malicious macros, which are a set of instructions used to perform a single action. Upon opening the file, the malicious code is activated, making it essential to stay informed in order to protect yourself from the increasing threat of cybercrime. Here, you will find all the information you need to know.

What Exactly Are Dangerous Office Files?

Documents in the Microsoft Office, Google Docs and PDF file formats are all potential targets for malicious content delivered via email. These documents are popular and often used in the workplace, leading individuals to open them immediately. Additionally, these file types are often able to evade detection from antivirus programmes, contributing to their widespread acceptance.

Malware within these documents is activated when unsuspecting office personnel open or view them. The malicious software then infiltrates the user’s device. If the affected device is a component of a larger network, the whole system could be put at risk.

Malware such as Emotet poses a significant risk as it is capable of evading antivirus protection, thus allowing for the potential installation of further malicious software, such as data-stealing trojans and encryption-blocking ransomware. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of emails with attachments discussing immunization featured Word documents that were contaminated.

In 2023, law enforcement agencies worldwide were successful in curtailing the spread of Emotet. This initial success spurred other cybercriminals to attempt similar tactics.

How Does Malware Affect Your Computer?

Once the virus is installed, it may encrypt data and demand payment (frequently in the form of cryptocurrency) in order to decrypt them, a tactic referred to as ransomware.

Recent ransomware attacks have caused significant damage. Companies who have taken precautions to maintain their data may be able to avoid paying the ransom and instead restore from a previous state. However, criminals may further the situation by threatening to expose confidential information contained within the files if the ransom is not paid.

If confidential customer data or trade secrets are compromised, the implications for the company could be catastrophic. Businesses may expend significant resources and effort attempting to recover from this type of data breach. Furthermore, there is a risk of decreased trust from customers and employees, as well as potential sanctions from regulatory bodies.

Cybercriminals are presented with a much simpler target in remote workers, according to a technical analyst cited by TechRepublic. They explain that the complexity and evasion needed for a successful malware attack is substantially lower than previous to the pandemic. This is concerning for the many companies that have either temporarily or permanently implemented work-from-home arrangements due to the ongoing epidemic.

Who is doing the harm, and who is it hurting?

Cybercriminals have been known to employ malware in order to gain a financial or other advantage. As an example, in 2023, the hacking group Mealybug released the Emotet malware. Those responsible for this type of malicious activity are usually highly intelligent and enjoy the challenge of planning and executing complex malware campaigns.

Organisations wishing to protect themselves from cyber-attacks should consider investing in employee education and training, as those who are unaware of how these attacks work or do not pay sufficient attention to the content of their emails may become vulnerable. By understanding the risks, organisations can take measures to mitigate them.

Make Precautions Against This Danger

In order for a cyberattack to be successful, both malicious code and user access must be present. To reduce the risk of such incidents, employees should be given cybersecurity training to increase their awareness of the activities which can lead to an attack. Therefore, businesses should take active steps in educating their employees in order to maintain their online security.

The following are some of the ways in which cyber security training may help keep businesses safe:

  • Employees might become more security-conscious if they are made aware of the hazards they face whenever they utilize a gadget.
  • Educating staff about phishing techniques and the signals to watch for — These warning signs are often obvious.
  • Teaching your staff what to do if they see anything questionable is essential.
  • Employees will be more encouraged and driven if they have an understanding of the overall cybersecurity strategy and comprehend how their personal efforts contribute to the wider objectives.
  • Because hackers are always raising their game, it is essential to keep staff up to date on the latest dangers.

To ensure the smooth operation of business machines, it is essential to keep them up to date with the most recent software and operating systems, as well as installing and updating any necessary safety gear. Those working from home, who may not have the necessary knowledge to implement these changes, would benefit hugely from our initiatives. Furthermore, it is advised to turn off macros in Microsoft Office.

While no cybersecurity system is completely impenetrable, these measures should help.

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