Microsoft Office is Now by Default Banning Macros!

There has been some back and forth since the change was first announced, but Microsoft began rolling out an upgrade to Microsoft Office this week that prevents the usage of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros on downloaded documents.

Microsft was testing the new default setting last month when it abruptly reverted back the update, “temporarily while we make some additional adjustments to improve usability.” Despite the fact that it was only temporary, many experts were concerned that Microsoft would fail to change the default option, leaving systems open to assaults. “Blocking Office macros would do exponentially more to really fight against real threats than all the threat intel blog postings,” Google Threat Analysis Group chief Shane Huntley tweeted.

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The new default setting is now being rolled out, but with updated verbiage to inform users and administrators of their alternatives when attempting to open a file that has been restricted. This only applies if Windows, using the NTFS file system, recognizes it as having been downloaded from the internet rather than a network disc or site that administrators have marked as safe, and it has no effect on other platforms such as Mac, Office on Android / iOS, or Office on the web.

 Macros by Default

While some individuals use scripts to automate chores, hackers have been abusing the feature for years with harmful macros, deceiving people into downloading and running a file that compromises their systems. Microsoft mentioned how administrators might utilize Office 2016 Group Policy settings to restrict macros across their organization’s systems. Nonetheless, not everyone enabled it, allowing hackers to steal data or disseminate ransomware.

Users who attempt to open files and are denied will get a pop-up that directs them to this page and explains why they are unlikely to need to open that document. It begins by going through numerous scenarios in which someone may try to deceive them into launching malware. If they truly need to view what’s inside the downloaded file, it goes on to explain how to acquire access, all of which are more involved than before, when users could usually allow macros by pressing a single button in the warning banner.

This update may not always prevent someone from accessing a malicious file, but it does provide several more layers of caution before they get there while still allowing access to those who claim to require it.

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