Microsoft update blocks its own file formats

4 Jan 2008

Citing security purposes, UK Microsoft IT evangelist Viral Tarpara has stated on his blog that the Service Pack 3 (SP3) update for Microsoft’s Office 2003 productivity suite blocks the user from opening and saving certain file formats, including older Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Corel Draw files.

“Some older file formats including some from Microsoft are insecure and do not satisfy new attack vectors which hackers can use to execute malicious code.

“The decision to block the formats is strictly to protect your machine from being compromised,” Tarpara added.

Microsoft lists 24 different formats affected by the SP3 update, including the current Word 2004 for the Apple Mac as well as Word 2001 for the same platform.

According to Tarpara, file formats can be re-enabled but only if the user knows how to make changes to their computer’s registry.

Otherwise all files should be converted to the OpenXML format using a download from Microsoft called the Office Compatibility Pack.

Tarpara further stated on his blog, “When was the last time you opened a pre-Office 97 file? When was the last time you opened a Quattro file? I never did in my life. On the off-chance you need it, you have a way to do it”.

However, the official Microsoft website clearly states post-Office 97 file formats are affected by this service pack update, albeit all on the Mac as opposed to the PC.

Some feedback from readers of the official public service announcement on Tarpara’s blog was negative, reflecting confusion at why old file formats should have to be made redundant given the very idea of the paperless office is that you should be able to access your archive of files no matter how old, whenever you want.

By Marie Boran