Why should I update my Microsoft Office software?

Question

I heard that there are security issues in Microsoft Office much like the recent issues in Windows XP. How do I protect myself if I use Office?

- Todd

Answer

This question was answered on September 4, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Most computer users are unaware that ALL software programs have potential security issues and bugs that can allow the program to be used in ways other than the intended use.

The more popular a program, the more likely these issues will be exploited Since Microsoft’s software is by far the most widely used, it will always lead the way in both discovered vulnerabilities and potential threats.

Before e-mail based worms and viruses become the most common type, ‘macro’ viruses that took advantage of the helpful ‘macro’ feature in programs like Microsoft Word and Excel dominated the virus world

For those that use productivity software, macros can save a lot of time They allow users to ‘record’ repetitive keystrokes and assign them to key combinations for future use.

Malicious code writers began hiding malicious macros in documents so that when they were opened by unsuspecting users, it would infect the machine that opened it and any subsequent documents that were opened by that machine.

As our word processing and spreadsheet programs become more sophisticated, they also open up new vulnerabilities for those looking to exploit these programs Now the threat is coming from something called ‘Visual Basic’, which is a programming language used in many of

Microsoft’s products.

A recent security bulletin sent out by Microsoft is warning users about serious new flaws discovered in these programs:

Access 97, 2000 & 2002

Excel 97, 2000 & 2002

PowerPoint 97, 2000 & 2002

Project 2000 & 2002

Publisher 2002

Visio 2000 & 2002

Word 97, 2000 & 2002

Works Suite 2001, 2003 & 2003

Great Plains 7.5

Dynamics 6.0 & 7.0

eEnterprise 6.0 & 7.0

Solomon 4.5, 5.0 & 5.5

They have listed the severity rating as ‘critical’ for this new flaw, so it is highly recommended that user of these applications get the free ‘patches’ that are posted by Microsoft.

To determine the version of a program that you are running, you can generally click on the ‘Help’ menu, then on ‘About’ to display a window with the specific information.

Most of us use one or many of the Microsoft Office programs on a regular basis, so that means we are vulnerable to this new threat Microsoft has a free product update site for Office users that will scan your system and determine which updates you need.

You can access this service at office.microsoft.com/productupdates Look for the ‘Check for Office Updates’ box at the top and click on the ‘Go’ button to start the scan.

If you use Microsoft Office on a daily basis, you should get into the habit of using this resource on a monthly basis to ensure that you are always as updated as possible.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on September 4, 2003