Watch Out for Malware Disguised as Sudoku Generator

Guest post from the Better Business Bureau

A scam that promises unlimited Sudoku puzzles is extra tempting this time of year. You have hours to kill sitting through a slow day at work, waiting at the airport or hanging out at a relative’s house. It’s a great time to waste time. 

How the Scam Works:

You receive a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that promises to automatically generate Sudoku puzzles. However, when you open the file and try to create a new puzzle, you get a message that you need to “enable macros” by disabling the software’s security setting.

If you do so, you will allow the malware to run on your computer. It will scan your system and send an email with details about your machine, according to computer security blog Naked Security.

What are Macros?

If you perform a task repeatedly in Microsoft Excel (or another Microsoft Office program), you can speed up your work by automating the task with a macro, a series of commands. However, macros are also a common way for scammers to sneak malware onto your computer.

Back in the 1990s, scammers frequently used this trick until Microsoft set all its software to automatically block macros. This adjustment forced scammers to abandon this technique and find new ways of fooling users. With this new malware, scammers hope that today’s Excel users have forgotten all about macros.

My File is Asking me to Enable Macros. Is This a Scam?

It can be hard to know when to allow macros in your Microsoft files. Follow these tips to ensure you don’t accidentally allow a virus to run on your computer.

  • Whenever you open an Excel workbook that contains macros, you can verify their source before you enable them. Just look for the digital signature, an electronic stamp of authenticity. See Microsoft’s page on macro security for more information.
  • Set your macro security level to control what happens when you open a workbook that contains a macro. You can choose to run macros based on whether they are digitally signed by a developer on your list of trusted sources. (To find this setting, go to the Tools menu, Macro submenu. Then, click the “Security Level” tab in the “Security” dialog box).
  • Watch out for macros in other Microsoft software. This scam involves Excel, but if this technique works, scammers will produce similar tricks using Power Point and Word Documents.

For More Information

Learn more about macros on Microsoft’s support website.

To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper

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About Bruce Demarest

Bruce Demarest is a Identity Theft Protection Specialist. He has designed and taught classes to educate individuals and businesses in identity theft risk management. The individuals have learned how to continuously monitor their financial identities from credit fraud, plus how to monitor their personal identifying information for unauthorized use. His business clients have become compliant with the federal & state privacy laws. He has conducted information security audits to identify their potential problems and has designed security policies, programs, and practices to address those problem areas.
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