Microsoft has frankly been messing people around in recent weeks over its plans to block Microsoft Office VBA macros. For months, Microsoft has been planning to block Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros on all downloaded documents across Office. The company then reversed that decision, but has done another flip flop and has now officially blocked them.
Quite why Microsoft thought to go through the messy situation of the last month is anyone's guess. Let's take a closer look at the situation because Microsoft's uncertainty is causing plenty of confusion for admins.
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it was going to block Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros across all Microsoft's Office applications. This meant that no Office app would be able to directly enable downloads if the file contained macros.
At the start of this month, Microsoft confirmed it was by reversing its decision to block Microsoft Office VBA macros by default. However, the company also said it would revisit its plans for a block eventually.
Most admins took that to mean in the coming months, not literally one or two weeks later. But that's where we are, with Microsoft now officially blocking VBA macros across Microsoft Office.
The company is rolling out a new default setting that will automatically block VBA macros. When users try to download and install such a file, Office will now surface options for what users can do with the file. It is worth noting the change only applies to Office on Windows.
We're resuming the rollout of this change in Current Channel. Based on our review of customer feedback, we've made updates to both our end user and our IT admin documentation to make clearer what options you have for different scenarios. For example, what to do if you have files on SharePoint or files on a network share.”
It is unclear what drove Microsoft to change its decision again in such a short space of time. Although, even users have been pushing for the company to block VBA macros. In a tweet, Google Threat Analysis Group chief Shane Huntley also urged Microsoft to block Office macros:
“Blocking Office macros would do infinitely more to actually defend against real threats than all the threat intel blog posts.”
Macro malware is not a new threat and has been causing cybersecurity problems since way back in the 90s. Despite being an archaic threat method, attacks still use macros exploits with success to this day. That's because this is a simple technique for pushing malware onto a system.
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