CyberTech Rambler

January 2, 2008

Blocking older file formats in MS Office SP3: Slightly misguided

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:24 pm

The news on the grapevine is that Microsoft Office Service Pack 3 is blocking older file format on security ground. Given that they are mostly pre 1997 file format, the impact is going to be low. Unfortunately, as the linked article show, it is difficult to reenable reading those older format. This, I think, is a mistake.

I am not against the idea of blocking older file format, simply that the workaround is too complicated. Nowadays the number of files still in the old format in circulation is low. This undoubtedly contributed to the decision to block. On the other side of the coin, the security risk is more remote as time passed, so, why not make a reenabling it a much simpler workaround for the user? Requiring users to check a box in the “Preference” menu than nagging them to answer “Yes” to “Do you really, I mean, REALLY want to open this less secure document?” every time they access these file format seems reasonable to me. OK, may be I throw in a requirement for Administrator to set a registry key to say “Allow user to enable older file format”.  After all, Microsoft is providing a “Registry Template” for sys admin to enable older formats. To hunt around Microsoft’s knowledge base articles for workarounds is not an easy task for joe users. The complicated and riddle with danger (by Microsoft admission) way turn this into a bigger issue than it should.

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