Why Using that Old Version of Office Puts You at Risk

I was born in Maine and had parents that clearly remembered the effects of the Great Depression. They weren’t yet born during the actual Depression but growing up, their parents who had lived through it, taught them valuable life lessons from those difficult years. And I got many of the same lessons although as the next generation, less poignantly. One central concept was Yankee-thrift, a big part of which means you don’t waste things and you don’t throw stuff away that could be re-purposed or re-used. Good advice – in most cases.

The problem is that this belief can get you into trouble with information technology. For example, we have many organizations we’ve worked with that use older versions of Microsoft Office. I’ve repeatedly heard over the years, “it works just fine and does what I need it to.” The problem is that it does some things you really don’t want it to do.

One of the biggest problems is the file format. Have you noticed how newer versions of Word save files with a .docx extension rather than the older .doc? There are many improvements that Microsoft built into the new file format, but one huge area of improvement was file security. In the new .docx format, Microsoft removed the ability for users to embed macros into the document. A macro is basically a set of self-executing instructions. Today, many variants of ransomware are being spread by macros in infected .doc and .xls files. With the older version of Word, you can just click and boom, you’ll find all your files encrypted and be looking at a ransom message and the prospect of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to get your data decrypted.

So Yankee-thrift is a great concept, but not in business where you share files all the time. Keep your software versions current and if you’re not sure how old is ‘too old’, ask your IT professional who can guide you.

Everyone keep safe out there!


 

Say Goodbye to Office 2003

Most people by this time have at least heard that Windows XP will be end-of-life this spring, but what many people don’t know is that Office 2003 is also slated to be retired. This means that similar to Windows XP, there will be no more patches or bug fixes for Office 2003.

For those of you operating in a regulated industry where minimum security requirements exist – or any business in Massachusetts where 201 CMR 17 requires computers to be patched, it’s time to start planning on your transition.