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3.20. Embedded Object Insertion Dependency

The first known binary virus that could infect Word 6 documents, called Anarchy.609351, appeared in 1997. Not surprisingly, we have not seen many other viruses like this because attacking the document formats to add macros to them is no trivial task. Anarchy was a DOS-based COM, EXE, and DOC file infector.

The first virus to infect VBA documents from binary code was released from Russia. The virus is called { Win32,W97M} /Beast.41472.A, and it appeared in the wild in April 1999. The virus is written in Borland Delphi and compiled to 32-bit PE format.

Beast uses a different means of infection than other binary viruses that infect documents. Instead of having it attack the VBA format on a bit-by-bit level, the Beast author used OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) APIs, such as AddOLEObject(), to inject macro code and embedded executable code into documents by using the internal OLE support of Microsoft Word. Via OLE support, the virus injects an embedded object (executable) into VBA documents. However, this embedded object will not be visible to the user, as it normally would. This is because the virus uses a trick to hide the icon of the embedded object.

The virus looks for actively opened documents in Word. When a handle to an active document is available, the virus calls its infection module. First it tries to check whether there are no embedded objects in the document, but in some cases this routine fails because the virus might have added multiple embedded executables into the documents.

Next, Beast tries to add itself as C:\I.EXE shape into the document, named 3BEPb (Russian for beast). If this procedure goes as planned, then a new macro called AutoOpen()also will be injected into the document.

The execution of the embedded object is facilitated by using the Activate method for the 3BEPb shape in the active document:

ActiveDocument.Shapes("3BEPb").Activate

Beast introduced the need for detection and removal of malicious embedded objects in documentsnot the simplest problem to solve.

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