Use Office? Your PC may be at risk due to Microsoft’s change

If you’re using Microsoft Office on your Windows PC, then you might want to keep your eye out for potential new security issues.

Microsoft has just backtracked on a decision it made earlier in 2022, and will no longer be blocking Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros in Office files by default across Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, and Visio.

The backtrack means you’ll no longer have to go to file properties, save the file to a specific location, or mark it as a trusted document to fully interact with a file that has macros enabled. Microsoft is now effectively rolling back to an older security system, where you can simply click “enable content” to open Office files with macros.

Macro alerts in Word file
Bleeping Computer

This rollback choice also has huge security implications. While macros are popularly used for replacing a repetitive series of keyboard and mouse actions in Office, it is also used by hackers. Those with bad intent can unleash malware on unsuspecting users who open downloaded Office documents that have macros enabled. No longer blocking them by default could mean Office users might be more open to these types of attacks.

An update on this decision was also announced in the Microsoft 365 message center, which is typically accessed by IT admins to see important service alerts. Microsoft explained the change, saying that it was based on feedback. It also seemed to hint that an improvement could be coming soon. This revert first rolled out to wider audiences in June 2022, according to Bleeping Computer. 

“We appreciate the feedback we’ve received so far, and we’re working to make improvements in this experience. We’ll provide another update when we’re ready to release again to the Current Channel. Thank you,” says the message.

Many Office users have noticed this change and have commented on Microsoft’s original announcement about the blocking of VBA macros. These users seem to be upset with the company’s communication about such a big security change and want Microsoft to be more transparent about the reasoning. Some were also upset about the extra steps originally needed to unblock Office documents with VBA macros. It is likely that IT admins had many headaches retraining users on how to enable macros.

In a statement to Bleeping Computer, Microsoft indicated that it “doesn’t have anything more to share” about why it’s rolling back the change.

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