Microsoft plans to block Office macros by default, again

Daniel Sims

Posts: 592   +21
Staff
What just happened? Microsoft has been planning to block macros in downloaded Office files as a security measure for months, but has kept hitting roadblocks in the process. This week, the company has reiterated its plans, better conveying what it's doing and what users should do in response.

Starting next week, Microsoft Office will block macros in files downloaded from the internet by default, "reversing a reversal" Microsoft had made just earlier this month. The new policy will be enforced starting July 27 as a security measure, but the company is taking greater pains to explain its decision this week.

Macros are helpful because they can automate some processes in Office applications. However, macros in online files can be vectors for malware and ransomware. Microsoft started blocking them in untrusted files in February, but unblocked them in early June without warning.

A spokesperson said the reversal came due to feedback, leading some to speculate Microsoft caved to users who complained, not knowing why their macros stopped working. This week, the company published documentation announcing the reinstatement of default blocking and extensively clarifying why.

In addition to a detailed explanation of who will be affected (anyone using Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio on Windows), Microsoft includes instructions to prepare for the change and to enable macros only in trusted files.

Users can already activate this security measure by enabling a policy to block macros. Users and businesses can unlock macros in various ways, like changing a file's properties, designating network locations as trusted, using PowerShell, or removing the "Mark of the Web" from a file. Microsoft explains how to do this for files from the internet, OneDrive files, SharePoint files, and files on local networks.

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Dimitriid

Posts: 2,223   +4,274
Can't wait for the inevitable reverse of the reversed reversal in a couple weeks.

As I said it before people don't appreciate how many businesses, of all sizes but particularly small and medium businesses, pretty much rely on excel macros to basically do everything: inventories, payrolls, the works.

And the reason Microsoft got angry calls about macros not working is because most of the time, the poor guy that made a macro spread sheet or macro heavy access database doesn't even works anymore, they just have an intern that opens the file, clicks 'run' and then some magic happens and we have an updated inventory but nobody actually knows what the underlying visual basic net code is actually doing or why.

Which is also why there will still be massive resistance to disabling macros: specialized software, cloud solutions, hiring developers: all these things cost money and excel macros have been doing the thing you need for free for 15 or 20 years at this point so even the best and most cutting edge tech has to accomodate excel sheets still as there's still someone, somewhere in your company that never moved on and barely knows how to grab something out of quickbooks, run some sort of excel macro book and call it a day.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,545   +5,999
Macros are incredibly useful and the biggest lifeline for office. Without macros there is 0, literally 0 reasons to use MS office over any of the free alternatives.

So of course MS is gonna start blocking it by default because customers cannot be trusted to enable the flag blocking such things themselves. And it’s going to backfire. Again.
 

BadThad

Posts: 1,156   +1,359
Macros are incredibly useful and the biggest lifeline for office. Without macros there is 0, literally 0 reasons to use MS office over any of the free alternatives.

So of course MS is gonna start blocking it by default because customers cannot be trusted to enable the flag blocking such things themselves. And it’s going to backfire. Again.

Exactly! Other than familiarity with the UI, MS holds no other advantage except for the most advanced features.....the ones I actually use. I actually prefer automatic macro blocking because 99% of uses are dumb and will run anything that pops-up on the screen. It has been easy enough to re-enable macros as a persistent change with Office and advanced users.

I've heard it over and over the past 35 years "It's not my PC, I'll just make IT fix it." One guy pissed me off so bad I took his work PC from him right then and there and told him "have fun today, I'll let you know when it's done". I made him wait like 3 weeks even though I was done in a couple hours.