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12/20/2012
04:32 PM
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Of Mayans And Malicious Macros

New attack poses as PowerPoint presentation on the end of the world

Blame it on the Mayans again. A new threat preying on an interpretation of the Mayan calendar that predicts the end of the world tomorrow, Dec. 21, is spreading.

Researchers at SophosLabs stumbled across a PowerPoint presentation called "Will the world end in 2012?" that contains malware. What's interesting about the attack is that it uses macros (remember those?) to do its bidding. This Mayan-themed attack comes on the heels of one SophosLabs revealed yesterday that uses a rigged Microsoft Excel spreadsheet disguised as a tool to generate Sudoku puzzles.

The two attacks appear related, according to SophosLabs. "Like the Excel spreadsheet, this file contained Visual Basic macro code that drops an executable file called VBA[X].exe, where [X] is a random capital letter. In fact, the macro was functionally identical to that found in the Sudoku puzzle," says Chester Wisniewkski, senior security adviser at Sophos. "Also like the Sudoku generator, this sample required the user to enable macros, but didn't include the helpful tip on how to do it or really any good reason you might need a macro to learn about the end times."

Wisniewkski says the macros create a Windows Portable Executable file; a dropper downloads a picture of an owl and then connects to a command-and-control server. From there, it's set to download another piece of malware, but SophosLabs says it didn't do so when it tested the malware.

The researchers say it's likely an automatically generated attack.

"I took a look around and discovered the original, uninfected files that these dangerous macros had been added to. The presentation about the world ending was created by a preacher in the United States who appears to have nothing to do with this booby-trapped version," Wisniewkski says. But don't search for the preso, he says.

The preacher's WordPress blog "has been compromised and is currently performing search engine manipulation duties for Viagra pushers, 'off-shore' casinos, forex fraud, and payday loans," he says.

SophosLabs' full post on the attack is here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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