Sophos identifies security loophole in Microsoft Office 2000

June 08, 1999 Sophos Press Release

Digital signatures - a new coat of paint for the Trojan horse

SYDNEY - Following a security analysis of the latest beta version of Microsoft Office 2000, Sophos has issued a technical paper to help users maximise security. The document includes an explanation of the different security levels Office 2000 offers, and highlights possible pitfalls.

Sophos, which has just opened an Australian office, is Europe's leading developer of anti-virus software products.

The UK security specialist engaged to investigate Office 2000 is concerned that the hype surrounding the introduction of digital signatures to the package will make users drop their guard and allow viruses in.

"It is perfectly possible for a document to arrive with a valid digital signature, from a trusted source, and still contain macro viruses," Sophos Australian director, Richard Baldry, says.

"For example, if you regularly receive emails with macros in from someone you know well, and they happen to get infected by a macro virus, the document will be modified by the virus, but will also have a valid digital signature. This means that email viruses can get through despite the use of Office 2000's digital signature system."

Sophos says Office 2000 can provide enhanced protection against viruses - if you know how to use it. It offers three security levels, which enable or disable macros based on the presence or absence of a valid digital signature, Baldry says.

While this will do a great deal to prevent macro viruses, it is not absolute. The information contained in this paper will empower people to make informed decisions about their IT security, Sophos says.