Microsoft bolsters Office 2003, 2007 security

Optional download warns users of malicious Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher files

Microsoft on Tuesday beefed up security in Office 2003 and Office 2007 on Windows by adding a feature that first appeared in the newer Office 2010 last year.

In Office 2010, the security feature -- labeled Office File Validation (OVE) -- examines older, pre-XML file formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, then opens those that don't conform to the documented format in a special "sandbox" called Protected View.

One recent example: Rigged Word documents that include a malicious Flash file exploiting Abobe's newest zero-day bug are shunted to the Protected View sandbox in Office 2010.

Tuesday, Microsoft made good on a promise last year to bring one part of OVE to Office 2003 and Office 2007.

Users of those suites can download and install an update that triggers an alert when Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Publisher tries to open a potentially-dangerous file. Alerts are the extent of the new feature, since neither Office 2003 or Office 2007 include a sandbox.

Although users can click through the warning to continue opening the file, enterprise IT administrators can block that by using Group Policy settings, said Jerry Bryant, group manager with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).

Microsoft is making the OVE update optional for now.

"It's a big functionality change, especially to enterprises," said Bryant, who added that Microsoft decided it was best to not offer OVE via the Microsoft Update service, so as to give companies time to test the feature.

On Tuesday, Bryant declined to commit to a timetable for pushing the Office 2003 and Office 2007 updates through Microsoft Update.

However, the Office team said that OVE would be available via Microsoft Update "in the near future."

Security experts applauded the decision to "backport" OVE to older editions of Office.

"What's interesting is that it stops the upgrade bandwagon," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle Security. "Backporting [OVE] is a real recognition by Microsoft that they're hearing from customers who want this protection. They're essentially giving users a free feature."

Wolfgang Kandeck, chief technology officer of Qualys, urged all Office 2003 and Office 2007 users to install the OVE update. "We think it should be mandatory," said Kandek.

Rodrigo Branco, the director of vulnerability research at Qualys, also chimed in with a recommendation.

"[OVE] captures many of the more obvious attacks based on Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents," said Branco, who reported one of the nine Excel vulnerabilities that Microsoft patched Tuesday in a record security update.

Office XP, which is nearing the end of its support lifecycle -- Microsoft will stop shipping patches for the 10-year-old suite July 12 -- isn't eligible for the OVE update.

The 3MB OVE update can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityMicrosoftoperating systemssoftwareWindows

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?