The Rise of Document Malware and How to Prevent It


Table of Contents

Most people do not know about the Melissa virus as it was released and affected computers in 1999. At that time, not many people owned or knew how to use computers and, as such, not many were affected by it. The Microsoft Corporation is well aware of how harmful the virus was as it forced them to shut down incoming email. This is because, once the Melissa virus was firmly embedded in a person’s computer, it looked to whether they had Microsoft outlook email which was then used to transmit the same virus to at least 50 other people via email.

Fortunately, the Melissa virus only affects Microsoft Word 97 and Word 2000, so you have nothing to worry about in this regard. However, having shown that it was possible to embed a virus in documents, more viruses and malware have been created that can affect your computer through the opening of documents.

The Rise of Document Malware and How to Prevent It

As such, you are more at risk now from getting malware through PDFs and other electronic document versions than you would have been 15 or more years ago. For example, both Word and Adobe PDF have macro as well as scripting abilities. As a result, opening a document can work similarly to other programs that run setups. Consequently, documents can now install malware on your computer as soon as they are opened. And, unfortunately, not many people know that it is possible to disable the macros and scripting capabilities. Disabling JavaScript for example is fundamental if you want to achieve PDF security and companies that force you to have this enabled in order to open their PDF files are putting your system at risk.

Moreover, the number of ways that you can acquire document malware on your device has increased exponentially. For starters, email is still the most common way in which you can find yourself exposed to malware and today’s viruses work similarly to the Melissa virus. As such, you can get viruses from an email you receive. And, once the malware is ingrained in your system, it will start reproducing and attaching itself to other documents you send out. As a result, everybody in your contact list is potentially exposed to risk.

Also, you do not just get malware via email. You can also get it by visiting shady websites, clicking on a particular document online, or downloading files. Where devices are interconnected in a system, some malware may possess the ability to spread to other linked devices.

How Document Malware May Affect Your Devices

Document malware will sometimes silently download and install more malware, which typically comes in two forms. The first type of malware is rootkits. If you keep sensitive documents on your computer, this could be the worst kind of virus as it can be used to steal your data and, as such, you could find your information being sold to the highest bidder or on a free torrent site.

The second type is botnets and this type can also be very dangerous. They incorporate your device into a network and then use your device as a home base to infiltrate other companies and networks. So, you end up spreading the malware to other devices.

Of course, there is usually a point to the infiltration. Some will corrupt your files, making them unreadable. Others hold your files ransom by locking your documents down and requesting payment before the files are released. These are rightly named ransom-ware.

Document Malware Prevention

Your email provider tries its best, even scanning files before you download them. However, as the user, you also have to do your part.

Firstly, you need to ensure that all your software is up to date. This begins with your operating system. Malware creators specialize in exploiting loopholes in current versions of the software. Luckily, software creators like Microsoft are always on the improvement trail and identify and patch up the holes they encounter in their systems. As such, you have to update your system to ensure there are fewer loopholes to exploit.

Secondly, you must ensure that you have anti-malware software, such as antivirus, mac security software and anti-spyware, installed on your device. Where a malware program sneaks one past the system in your PC, an antivirus product serves to isolate and eliminate the threat.

Finally, make sure that you do not open any shady-looking emails, without first verifying the source and/or the content within.


The content on our devices is usually essential information. Leaving it open to malware may affect the integrity of your files or open you up to the risk of finding the information for free on various sites. It is, therefore, necessary to be proactive in preventing malware from getting on your devices. The how is stipulated above with the only requirement being that you implement the pointers. You, therefore, have no excuses if you find document malware on your devices.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here