Microsoft Confirmed Rollback of a Feature Related to the Blocking of Internet Macros

Microsoft has stated that a recent feature rollback involving the disabling of internet macros in its Office program is simply a temporary measure.

Since 2016, Office has blocked macros in documents downloaded from the Internet. The user is alerted by a yellow notice that editing has been disabled and is given the option to reactivate editing and macros with a single click.

Microsoft said in January 2022 that Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros would be restricted by default, and in February the tech giant changed the default Office behavior regarding macros such that users could no longer enable macros with a single click in documents downloaded over the internet.

Microsoft specifically changed the yellow alert to a new one to tell users that the document’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros had been disabled. The message also included a “Learn more” button that connected to an article with details on the dangers of macros.

The article would explain that the Mark of the Web (MOTW) on documents arriving from the internet may be erased once the document was stored to a trusted location rather than allowing users to instantly activate macros.

Microsoft suddenly reversed the new default behavior, which was intended to stop users from activating potentially hazardous macros, in order to “enhance user experience.”

Office was no longer displaying the new alert when an administrator working on a policy for their staff spotted it. The administrator commented on Microsoft’s February statement to inquire about the rollback.

As it turns out, Microsoft had actually decided to remove the feature but had kept quiet about it, which led to misunderstanding.

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“In response to customer criticism, we temporarily pulled back this modification while we made some other usability-improving changes. Microsoft clarifies in an addendum to the February announcement that this is a temporary change and that it is completely committed to making it the default for all users.

The tech giant cautions that administrators can still enable particular Group Policy settings to prevent macros from being used in Office documents that are downloaded from the internet.

Microsoft didn’t specify a date for the reinstatement of the old default in Office. Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, and Word apps are all impacted by the change.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.