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Microsoft Excel Malware Targets Business & Home Users

The latest attack launched by hacking group known as ‘Evil Corp’ or TA505 presents a new risk by targeting businesses through malicious Microsoft Excel documents.

Knowledge of current threats and how they work is the best way for business and personal users to prevent hackers gaining remote access to computers and sensitive data via Excel malware.

The following advice informs you about the malicious excel code and how to prevent malware issues resulting from your spreadsheet being infected.

What Is the Evil Corp Excel Malware?

Evil Corp is a hacking group that has been active since 2014. The group has been carrying out a phishing campaign using Excel documents as a new, covert delivery device. The financially-motivated cybercrime group has previously targeted retail companies and financial institutions with similar attacks.

The infected Excel documents contain a malicious macro virus, which can infect a computer’s system when a document is opened or closed. The malware is spread through an email phishing campaign, which uses HTML redirectors to download Dudear, an Excel file containing the malicious macro.

What Does It Do?

Victims targeted by this phishing campaign are instructed to open the Excel document on their computer and enable editing so that they can access the file’s contents. Doing so leads to the malware attempting to put a remote access trojan (RAT) on the computer’s system. This trojan is known as Grace Wire or Flawed Grace.

The RAT can then steal information from the system. The documents also include malware downloaders that deliver Dridex and Trick banking trojans. An IP trackback service will track the IP address of any machine that downloads and opens the malicious Excel file.

Preventing Excel Malware Attacks at Work

The best way to prevent problems caused by Evil Corp and any other malware is to know how to avoid the issue. Microsoft Security Intelligence tracks these problems and provides advice on how to avoid becoming a victim. Education is vital for preventing malware resulting from phishing. Employees must be aware of the problem and advised not to open unfamiliar Excel spreadsheets or enable editing.

A range of tools will also help, including Microsoft Threat Protection, Office 365 protections, and Microsoft Defender ATP. These will all help to block the threat and prevent the download of malicious files.

What to Do If You Have Been Targeted

If a phishing campaign targets you, it is first important to know how to recognise fishing. Recognising the signs of a phishing email, such as hyperlinks that don’t match the anchor text or emails not relevant to you, will go a long way.

If a security breach has already occurred, speed is key. Identifying the email and who was targeted is a must. Disconnecting the device from the internet and any networks will help to prevent it from spreading. Performing a complete scan of the device using anti-virus software can detect any malware and help with removing it.

Preventing Excel Malware Attacks

In conclusion, be wary of any suspicious emails, and avoid opening unknown Microsoft Excel files.

The most effective method of preventing such security breaches is providing excel training to you and your staff, a service we provide remotely and on-site.

    Starting Up A Business As A Stay At Home Dad. Part 4

    Baby-Sitters

    I stood in the car park listening to Lilia crying… It felt like I stood there for 5 minutes debating with myself, but it was probably less than a minute. When Lil was about 3 we started her at a nursery 3 mornings a week i think, and for some reason, that we’ll never fully understand, she just didn’t like it.

    Vivid memories of driving to the nursery, Lils in the back crying and I’m saying “Be a brave girl for daddy, you are a brave girl aren’t you?” “Yes daddy I’ll be your brave girl” she was 3! I don’t know how long she went there for, it felt like months but it probably wasn’t. I walked back into the nursery, saw my girl lying on the floor crying her eyes out and maybe most shocking, nobody was tending to her in any way that I could see. I took her home with me.

    It seemed that day, that everybody else’s child went to nursery but maybe ours was going to be different in some way. I wondered how I would be able to meet my clients’ deadline that day, but had no real options at the time.

    Over time there needed to become increasingly good reasons for going through the ordeal and somehow those essential meetings became less frequent. Did business suffer substantially? Not at all from what I can make out, what we created was a new business model that allowed me to stay at home.

    The Digital Baby-Sitter

    As I write this they are debating on Radio 2 about putting technology like phones and tablets into the hands of babies. This problem has quite a different angle to it when you are staying at home with the little darlings and you need to earn money as well.

    I would be working on a project for a client and Lilia would be watching the Teletubbies or Peppa Pig or numerous other quality programs. Kids tv is an art form when created by the BBC. Peppa Pig well… she loved it and you can see why.

    We went to playgroups, we spent hours in Parks, with friends and family. We had loads of fun they were the best years of my life, I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could. There were times when I had to work, and Lil never really slept during the day, so she would watch stuff on the iPad and she was very happy. When we said she had watched enough we turned it off and she’s never really complained much.

    You can get it very clearly in your head that you want to spend as much time with your child/children as you can, and hence you need to find ways to reduce the effort or time involved in earning money – so that you can spend that time with your family. Striking the right work/play balance isn’t always easy. I’ll argue that when you’re running your own show and you have only yourself to answer too, then it may even get more difficult to strike the balance right. We were lucky because my mum lived in the same town and she loves being a granny, so that saved my bacon many a time! Use the grandparents, don’t feel guilty they love it.

    In the next blog, I will talk about Automation, the biggest non-secret in getting the job done good and FAST.

    We eventually got Lilia into a nursery that was very near home and had a very ‘homely’ feel to it, it was a lovely group actually, and Lil went there happily a couple of times a week. I would drop her off and almost RUN home to get on with my work.

    The Best Windows 10 shortcut Ever

    Windows 10 Creators Update, included what one of my colleagues called ‘a moment of zen at Microsoft’ — you can capture a specific region of your screen to the clipboard using the Win + Shift + S shortcut key. Having used it for a while I tend to agree with him. They call it “snip and sketch.”

    To demonstrate how this baby works, I have selected a photograph from my Google Photos album and I want my photoshop expert to change a few things on it. So first I used the ‘snip and sketch ‘ tool (Win-Shift-s) to grab the photo quickly.

    the snip and sketch interface
    Drag a horizontal crop across the screen to select the part you need. In this case some of the photo.
    crop the chosen image
    In doing so I can crop the image

    In my notifications bar on the right of my screen, I can see the image has been saved to a universal clipboard. From here you can paste it in almost ANYWHERE with a cursor and a Ctrl_V. I haven’t found anywhere yet where it will not paste effectively.

    the notification toolbar
    The notifications bar shows a clickable image

    Alternatively, if you want to edit it quickly just double click the notification and Windows will launch it in a basic editor application.

    mark up on an image
    Make any edits or markups you want on the image. I’m showing our photoshop guru I want some burn-in on the areas ringed

    then use the shortcut AGAIN to copy the image and paste it into an email or blog (as I have done).

    And paste it straight into a blog or email, Onenote page or even a blank canvas in Photoshop
    the photo pasted into photoshop
    Pasted into Photoshop

    The beauty is, is that at no stage have I had to save or name or find the image. For me, that is a massive saving of time and effort.

    The other part of my working day is within Excel, and here again, the shortcut can be hugely beneficial.

    The client has a problem with a particular value in their pivot table.

    It’s an easy enough solution, the point is, that that single image so easily executed using snip and stretch then demonstrates so well the problem, and this can now be shared on Whatsapp, email, skype… Sure you can use a screen share but so often an email or an SMS message suits you both fine.

    As a company director, communication is obviously key, and to do this, I must use the broadest range of communication channels possible. This feature of windows helps us to help our customers, to help us, to help them.

    I hope that you find this shortcut as useful as I have.

    Starting Up A Business As A Stay At Home Dad. Part 3

    In part #2 we discussed communication and its tremendous importance in running a successful business, a business that allows you to be a stay at home parent at the same time. There’s much more that will be said about communication in future articles but for now, we are going to take a look at the next crucial element in setting up your business – let us call it Crisis Management for sake of a better term.

    In an office, you may choose not to answer your phone for various reasons, it’s unlikely your reason is quite as definite and unavoidable as when you have a young child demanding your attention. It gives a new meaning to the phrase “I can’t answer the phone or the door.”

    Lilia was not hard work as a baby or a toddler. No more than you expect anyway. But she has always had her ‘requirements’ as we all do, and this has meant that I’ve had to evolve various coping strategies around working and looking after her. I thought I’d share a few ideas…

    Here is one I wish I’d known sooner

    Find your Peak Time and use it wisely

    There is a period of about 1 and 1/2 hrs in your day when you are at your best for thinking deeply about things. Do you like talking on the phone in the morning? No? Nor do I … so don’t do it. Remember that really good answerphone message you’ve got? Use it.

    Times like ‘School Run’, Breakfast, Lunchtime. Dinner not good times for phonecalls – don’t use immediate communications during these times, use deferred communication instead (text, WhatsApp) if you must. Much much better, turn the phone off at these times. Do your kids and yourself a favor.

    Years ago I stopped wearing a watch because I felt that it had too much control over me. It represented time but was not time itself and anyway, I now had a mobile phone as a watch, I only need to take it from my pocket and I cannot believe I do this to check the time how many times in a day?? Hello! And every time I take my phone out I’m automatically updated with emails/texts/missed calls OUCH!

    I want to be able to turn my wifi and mobile data off, and only urgent phone calls will ring (Urgent could be a tag in the communications file) and turn it back on at set times in the day. I need the possibility of turning on/off several times a day at set times. I have found out how to do this in Android and i will write a blog about it very soon.

    Tomorrow I get a new battery put in my wristwatch.

    Feng Shui Your Life

    Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art of allowing the free flow of ideas and actions to flow unhindered through your life. As a system of rules, it can be applied to your living room, bedroom… where ever you want to increase the energy inherent in the space.

    Any Daoist will tell you that your external environment is but a reflection of your inner world, and so Feng Shui becomes a guide to the space we inhabit in our center, in our heart. Where we are right here, right now is your Tai Chi, your living space. The magic square meter with you standing at the center.

    That center spot is the center of the Bagua, The Chinese compass that just so reminds me of the alethiometer in Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials… Anyway, the compass points outwards in the areas of our life: Relationships, money, career, relatives, health and then goes on to help us develop free-flowing energy in all those areas. It is from our center that we can move out and inhabit these parts of our life. Whether we inhabit those areas in a constructive or destructive mode is the point of the Bagua.

    A freedom worth having

    If we emphasize the FREE part of free-flowing just, for now, we need to look at how we generate that freedom. We’re talking here about the freedom to be who you really are. It’s never too late, that’s what 8 years of teaching Tai Chi has taught me, its never too late. Becoming a dad at 45 taught me that also 🙂

    Start dealing with your mobile phone – take control of your life and make sure messages only get through to you at the times when you can best deal with them.

    We are currently building a system that could help you monetize your own expert skills, as this is often the key to the Freedom that you so want. You can see about it here

    Ask An Expert – Expert brief

    Becoming the Expert that you are

    It’s a great opportunity. If you’re a stay at home parent, as I was, this could be exactly what you need to make that extra income. It’s certainly what I needed. This service doesn’t currently exist at an affordable price, in my opinion, so the idea is to make this whole service truly affordable for small start-up businesses like mine was, just a few years ago.

    Our aim is to provide a truly versatile service for you to offer a wide range of online expertise. You will be able to use chat, voice, file sharing, webcam, and screen share functionality to give the help and support that you need. If you are a potential Expert using this system to help you make money selling your expertise, then you will be able to share your particular knowledge base with the world.

    For your clients, these features will be available through a webpage. They can communicate with you for free, then when you both agree that the free consultation is at an end, you can move over to the paid option, or the ‘Free quotation’ option.

    To continue ongoing support the visitor will then be able to buy units of time to be used in your virtual meeting room.

    A casual user will have used their email address to create an account. A silver user will have logged a payment method with the website and possibly already purchased some credit.

    The rest is up to you

    YOU are an expert. No doubt about it. You may be someone who can instantly say what their expertise may be, many of us have to search around a bit to see what we are REALLY expert at

    So what are your expertise? The thing that you alone know, that very personal passage that has brought you through life and landed up right where you are now is your expertise. Frame it right, and other people will want to hear that knowledge, from you.

    Starting Up A Business As A Stay At Home Dad. Part 2

    Following on from my last article that you can read here, I thought I’d discuss some of the realizations about running such a business that I have learned over the years from being a stay at home working dad.

    Communication

    Communication is your first priority when planning your business. Get it sorted before you do anything else and you won’t regret it. Sorted in YOUR HEAD I mean.

    What are your priorities in this business? Get these straight because these priorities will dictate how you approach the communication aspects of your business. I’ve written a bit about sorting priorities here if you’re interested.

    My priorities were to put Lilia first, and that meant being there for her. I wanted to be that 100% reliable solid rock in her life from day one, and clearly If I were to spend my days meeting with people, this would not happen. ‘Stay at home’ truly meant ‘stay at home,’ so the meetings had to occur either very locally or using technology to facilitate.

    One of my work colleagues I had never met face to face, for possibly the first 2 years of our relationship. Then one day we actually passed near his house, and we were all able to meet. It was great, Lilia was excited to meet the man that played online computer games with her. Rose and I just wanted to hug him. Can you build trust with someone without actually ‘shaking hands’? Yes definitely. So get over it, you do not need to ‘squeeze the hand’ its just convention. Meetings are great, but most of the time it’s not essential.

    When you start to look you will find countless online services that facilitate communication. My favorites are WhatsApp, email, and Skype. Even text messaging has its uses. Which service you use for a particular communication will fall broadly into 2 types, immediate and deferred.

    You meet somebody in the street or phone them and they answer, call someone on Skype or whatever, that’s immediate. You ask the person a question and they’re immediately put on the spot for an answer.

    Deferred is a far more relaxed way to communicate. By using deferred communication methods its essential that you do NOT expect an immediate answer. If its an emergency don’t text them, CALL them. You can reply to a deferred communication at a time that suits you best when you can give your attention and expertise to the communication most effectively.

    Give yourself, your clients and your co-workers a break, communicate with them using deferred technologies whenever possible, and get the best out of them and you.

    If you’re dealing with a small child, you don’t really want immediate communication if you can help it. It’s essential that you do not let people dictate to you what is important. It may be important, and it may be very important to them, but remember your priorities.

    THE number one most important communication you have with a potential client is their communication with your website if you have/need one. A website is always work in progress, and so it should be. Your website should offer the modes of communication that you wish to use to communicate with your clients. Freephone numbers are good, skype and email addresses can’t be beaten. Make sure your answerphone message gives the right impression because you will be using it A LOT.

    Plan how you’re going to construct your business with a clear picture of your priorities. Avoid immediate communication methods as best you can, they will rarely fit in with your lifestyle. Those that you do want to have, find the time of day that is best for you and schedule any immediate communications for then. (For me it was often after Lil was in bed – there was no POINT trying to talk before then!)

    Next time I’ll write about crisis management the next step in making a stay at home business that lets you spend as much time as possible with your child.

    A guide to effective Microsoft Excel formulas and their uses

    Microsoft first invested in Excel in 1985 for Mac and arrived at Windows in 1987. Building on their older counterparts, the earliest version of an electronic spreadsheet was around as early as 1979. 

    Excel formulas are expressions that are input into a cell. They can calculate many different things like a mathematical formula normally would, from things like the sum of a group of cells to the average of a set of cells. Cells are based on a grid reference system e.g. columns are A, B, C, etc, whereas rows are 1,2, 3 etc, like coordinates on a map. Predefined formulas in excel are called functions.

    You can also preselect formula and functions from a list already present on Excel. If you aren’t sure, copying and pasting a formula from an internet search for formula then selecting the group of cells they apply to could be a good solution.

    How Do They Work?

    Excel formulas are inserted into a specific cell. For example, if you wanted to find the value of a list of numbers in a column (say from A1 to A4), you could type the formula in A5:

    = A1+A2+A3+A4

    Or:

    = SUM(A1:A4)

    Although these two formulas will give you the same result, the second one is a function that will carry out the same role as the first formula and add up all the values in the specified columns. Functions are faster versions of excel formulas and help you find the answer faster.

    How Can An Excel Formula Help Me?

    Excel formulas can save you time by automating tasks that you’d previously need to carry out yourself. For instance, if you run your own business and are managing your budgets, an Excel formula can calculate the total amount for you. There is even an AutoSum button when you simply quick on the icon and Excel creates the formula and calculates values for you. The Excel Experts can provide many different options when it comes to your spreadsheets, seek out our Excel consultancy services for Excel help remotely or in your local area.

    Percentage Formula

    If you need to work out the percentage of your expenditure, or how much of a market share your brand is taking up, the percentage calculator could be for you.

    If you want to work out the percentage a value takes up, typing in =C1/B1 or what could be total value/ used value, e.g. 100/5  = 20% could be key for your business.

    VLookup 

    VLookup is a handy formula that helps you consolidate data into a handy table. If you have a large set of values but want to show the key data in a smaller table (like key product information) VLookup might just be for you. It might seem complicated initially but will eventually save you time and prove essential in data capture.

    Conditional Formatting

    Although not a formula in itself, Conditional formatting can help highlight key delays in a dataset. For instance, if you have key deadlines based on 7 days turnaround, you can select anything over 7 days to show in red, highlighting that task or item is overdue. You can also show things that are on time in green, indicating you don’t need to worry about these items.

    Researching these formulae and functions can save you vital time you spend conducting basic business tasks. Learn about formula today and boost the time you can spend in your business.

    Reasons to Download Microsoft Office and Excel for Your Mobile

    The digital world has never been more mobile focused, with most websites now optimised to be viewed on mobile first, and most popular programmes and software available to download as apps or mobile-friendly versions.

    Microsoft Office is no exception, with Word, PowerPoint and Excel all available in app format, for those who want to create or edit docs on-the-go. For Excel users, it’s no longer necessary to be sat at your desktop PC, as Excel for Mobile contains all the standard functions, as well as a few mobile-specific features too.

    As new features are being constantly added, we’ve pulled together a quick round up the recent updates and benefits from the Microsoft Excel app, and the top reasons it’s such an essential download.

    It’s optimised for use on both Apple and Android

    The Apple/Android divide is one that still separates many smartphone users, with fans in each camp claiming superiority. As a third-party developer however, Microsoft has ensured that both Apple and iOS users receive the same great features and user experience, whichever mobile OS you prefer. The app on both formats has recently benefited from a visual overhaul across the entire Microsoft Office suite, with updated typography, icons, cells and splash screens all contributing to a much cleaner and clearer aesthetic.

    It makes the most of your camera

    One big benefit that Excel for mobile has over its desktop companion is the ingenious way it utilises the camera found on your mobile device. In fact, this applies to all programmes in the Microsoft Office suite, as the app versions let you use your camera to scan documents, and import them into their respective formats. Convert print into an editable Word document, drop camera images directly into a Powerpoint presentation, or convert a table into an Excel spreadsheet. This feature isn’t just handy for working on your commute, it’s a valuable function that can save you time in the office too.

    It offers a Dark Mode

    Dark Mode has been a building trend in mobile technology over the last year. As part of ongoing initiatives for digital wellbeing, this feature works to dim your mobile display, as well as filtering out blue light from the screen’s colour palette. The benefits of this function are to reduce eye-strain during long periods of work, as well as making the display easier to view in dim surroundings. The reduction of blue light is also thought to help the brain to unwind during late-night use, as blue light may be interpreted by the brain as the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which makes it more difficult for users to sleep immediately after use. With a Dark Mode option available across all Microsoft Office apps, you can avoid this potential hazard of late-night screen use.

    One billion Excel users can’t be wrong

    Although the Excel app is available on both Android and iOS, this impressive stat comes courtesy of the Google Play Store for Android alone. Microsoft Excel for mobile is now in an exclusive club with Microsoft Word, OneDrive and Skype, all of which have received over one billion downloads on Android alone. This impressive achievement goes a long way to illustrate just how user-friendly the Excel mobile app really is, as well as how widely it has been adopted by both domestic and commercial users.

    If you’d like to ensure your business is fully harnessing the power of Microsoft Excel, then be sure to speak to The Excel Experts. Whether you’re looking to introduce a whole new spreadsheet system for workflows and reporting, or improve the productivity of an existing set-up, we’re ready to help. We can create workbooks, train your staff in how best to use Excel, and help your business go from strength to strength. For more information then be sure to checkout our plethora of Excel consultancy services that are on offer either at your place of work, or remotely via one of our Excel specialists.

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    Using Excel mobile’s new photo to table feature.

    If you’ve got excel, you’ve likely installed the mobile version on your phone. No? I would do it because this blog is about a nifty feature that’s been included in the most recent mobile version. The ability to photograph a chart of data, and for Excel to ‘guess’ what the data looks like. Easier to see with an example..

    Recently I’ve been writing a couple of blogs about the equivalent ages of dogs and cats in human years. Just doing some simple analysis in Excel with the aim to look a bit deeper in later blogs when i found this webpage. Thinking it may be a good time to test the new Excel feature.

    cats vs human ages
    screen grab from the Pet Health website

    Heres the information we want to analyze, and the first thing to notice is that the whole thing is an image. If it were an html table you’d likely be able to scrape most of it fairly easily, but it isn’t so what we going to do? Grab your mobile phone and load Excel

    Starting up Excel mobile version and making sure a cell is selected

    Look at the bottom of your screen and you should have this

    The fifth image is an excel table with a little camera in front of it. You can click on this

    If you see this at the bottom of your screen just click on the little tab icon on the left-hand side and you’ll then be able to access the new tool.

    Notice how Excel tries to analyze the picture and identify the chart with a red line surround. The result was, that Excel thought it was one cell with nothing in it number wise.

    After a bit of experimentation i managed to get this:

    Not bad. Took a few minutes and it is going to need some tidying up, but definitely easier than typing those values in. Maybe not even easier, but more fun, and that counts for something.

    Heres the data merged from our previous 2 blogs concerning ageing in pets, one was about dogs and the other was about cats.

    My daughter REALLY wanted to see all 3 charts together so Right-click on any of the numbers and select Quick Analysis again

    Select charts and line graph.

    So the 2 cat prediction models agree with each other for most of the range of human year comparisons. More interesting is the dog data as it is derived from a recent piece of read more about it here research about ageing in dogs. If they did similar work on cats would the straight lines become more like the dog curve?

    Let us try a little more Excel and see if we can find anything else of interest. So lets right click on the chart and select to change the type of chart we are displaying

    Pick a scatter map for now

    So maybe we want a curve that shows the ‘average age of a dog or a cat’ doesn’t matter which. Make a column called Average and start typing in the cell E2 , starting with the ‘=’s sign start typing aver and Excel will guess you want the function ‘Average() ‘

    You get this:

    Excel is now asking you to select the numbers you want to take the average for..

    Click in cell a2 and then drag across the 4 columns

    Thats all the numbers you want, now press return and Excel will calculate the average of the 4 numbers. It could have computed LOTS of other things but thats for a later blog.

    Click the cell with the Average calculation in (E2) and drag it down the column. As you go, Excel will calculate all the averages for all the rows.. Excel was written with Accountants in mind, is that any suprise?

    Use quick analysis as before and we’ve got our ‘average curve’

    Select the Average curve and right click, select ‘Add trendline’

    Excel is suggesting a linear trend line. Remember to click the Display equation and the R-squared checkboxes.

    Looking at the graph now, if this means nothing to you please refer to earlier blogs in the ‘Ask Excel’ series