Top Security QuickFails: #1 Office Macros

6. June 2021


#1 Standard Office Macros Settings

The attack

Our employee of the month Peter Lustig receives an e-mail from his supplier SuperSchnell GmbH, who has attached a corrected order in an Excel sheet.
Of course, the Excel sheet was protected with a password, because the data protection regulation strictly prohibits anything else xD

So Mr. Lustig opens his email attachment and sees the following message in his Excel program:

Of course, Mr. Lustig activates the content, as Mr. Immerböser from SuperSchnell GmbH has already pointed out in the e-mail that this is necessary for password protection. The result then looks like this:

What happened?

The macro downloaded a file “poc_HanseSecure.exe” from the Internet, saved it to the desktop (see links above) and executed it. The program does nothing else at this point than display a MessageBox. A real attacker would not have displayed the first Powershell window, nor used a message box as a payload. Instead, the latter would have either encrypted all writable files (including on servers) or secretly installed a backdoor to carry out more perfidious attacks.

The countermeasure

There are two main ways to prevent these types of attacks (which account for 85% of the more perfidious phishing attacks…):

Disable Macros

If no macros are used in the company, you can very gladly just close this gate to hell and basically disable macros 😉
If only specific user groups need macros (for example sales & marketing, who else xD), you could also think about a GPO that excludes this user group from disabling.

Macros Siginate

The solution with significantly more effort, but which still enables the use of macros across the board, is macro signing.
GPOs are also used to configure that only macros that have been signed accordingly can be executed. An example of how to sign macros has been summarized by Microsoft in some posts.

Update from 28.11.2021
A security colleague from Germany (Constantin Wenz @HackmichNe) took my post as an opportunity to create a very good and practical post about macro signing.

Safety gain

Very high

*From the blog series Top Security QuickFails


Similar posts

The prehistory In recent years, we have conducted an extremely large number of penetration tests at companies of all sizes [...]

6. June 2021

#2 Domain admins everywhere The attack It is a Monday morning and Kevin Vielzutun starts his monthly server check in [...]

15. June 2021

#3 The “invisible” network shares The attack It’s Wednesday morning, the sun is shining and all ImmerGrün AG employees are [...]

26. August 2021

Half past six in the morning in Germany. Bianca at MedienBude GmbH starts her workday by checking her e-mail inbox. There [...]

1. November 2021