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Is it a common practice to deny/filter e-mails that contain files with macros?

In this Ask the Expert Q&A, resident network security expert, Mike Chapple, discusses whether it a common practice to deny/filter e-mails that contain files with macros.

Is it a common practice to deny/filter e-mails that contain files with macros? I currently have our firewalls set to deny VBA's and macro-laden files, but we need to send some files back and forth to headquarters and subs. Are there alternative setups or should we not worry about blocking macros?
At this point in time, I'd say it's standard practice for organizations to use an antivirus scanner on all inbound e-mails. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't. Worm outbreaks like Melissa and ILOVEYOU in the late 1990s forced everyone's hand in that respect.

The whole idea of blocking various classes of e-mail can be somewhat tricky and controversial. I know of organizations...

that block all documents containing scripts, while others block all compressed files because they might be encrypted. This really comes down to a business decision. If you have a business need for these files, you probably don't want to block them completely. It's reasonable to rely on your mail server's antivirus software to detect and remove malicious scripts. On the other hand, if you're able to clearly identify those senders (say everyone at foo.com) that need to exchange script-laden files, you might want to configure your server to reject these attachments from anyone else.

This was last published in April 2006

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