Excel problem – probably a yawn

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There’s news coming out of another security problem in Excel but sadly many of the early reports have been misleading. We thought we should set you straight before omissions become facts.

EXCEL PROBLEM – PROBABLY A YAWN

There’s news coming out of another security problem in Excel but sadly many of the early reports have been misleading. We thought we should set you straight before omissions become facts.

There are plenty of security concerns with Microsoft Office – this one isn’t anything really new or of great concern to anyone who is careful with their file attachments. It doesn’t concern most readers of Office Watch, because only Asian language versions of Excel are affected..

As a 21st Century media outlet we’re supposed to ‘beat up’ stories as much as possible. Scary headlines, news alerts and stories ‘no-one can afford to miss’. Or as mock TV commentator Stephen Colbert says to his audience “I’ll tell you what to fear.”.

Sorry – that’s not our style.

We’ll tell you if there’s a problem, give you our judgment about it and explain our reasoning. We’ll do that after considering Microsoft’s opinion (if given) but not accepting it unquestioningly.

In this issue we’ll fill you in on the latest announced problem as far as it’s known to publication time. We’ll also cover what you can do to protect yourself – which is the same advice that we always give.


ANOTHER EXCEL PROBLEM – SORT OF

Let’s start with the important fact that’s been omitted or buried in media reports … the new Excel flaw only applies to certain language versions of Office.

NO English language versions are affected.

Only Asian language versions of Excel (2000, 2002 and 2003) are affected. According to Microsoft, Chinese, Japanese and Korean versions of Excel only.

It’s possible this ‘new’ problem is just a variant on an earlier, as yet unpatched, problem.

And the security problem has NOT been used publicly.

Like all the recent Office security problems, you have to open a maliciously created document to trigger the security breach on your computer.

Perhaps now you’ll understand why we’re not at all concerned about this latest news. Clearly there are plenty of security problems with Excel, in particular, that need fixing – but there’s nothing in this latest problem that deserves anything beyond the normal precautions.

If you want to know more check out the original information details here.

The monthly release of Microsoft security patches happens next week and may address this ‘new’ Excel problem along with others outstanding.

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WHAT TO DO?

All you can do is apply the usual cautions, be wary of Excel document, if not file attachments generally. That’s standard; you should be careful about files from unknown sources.

Microsoft says you should beware files from unknown sources, which is good advice but it overlooks the fact that emails can be spoofed with the ‘From’ address faked to seem like it’s from someone you know.

While the security ‘leak’ is very new, the viruses or backdoors that would be installed on your computer via that breach are known and should be detected by any decent anti-virus software.

What do they say these days? ‘Be alert but not alarmed’ – there’s no reason to panic, just keep the currently low possibility in mind.

While Microsoft’s actions are not known at the time of publication, you can bet that the major anti-virus companies are working on updates to detect possibly suspect documents. As always, make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date.

 


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