When a security feature is no longer secure

Monday, 12 January 2004, 11:13 AM EST

Question: When is a security feature not a security feature? Answer: When it's the document protection system in Microsoft Word.

THIS TOOL allows the owner of a document to prevent its readers from tracking changes, making comments, or changing the content in forms. It can be used, for instance, to make sure a customer can't alter a price quote before printing it out and signing it. (You can locate this feature by selecting the Tools menu, then Protect Document.)

It's different from the encryption security feature, which locks an entire document from modification. (The latter is available by selecting the Tools menu, then Options, then Security.)

Even Microsoft admits that the Protect Document feature is not a true security feature. But the software giant hasn't gone out of its way to tell its customers. As a result, many businesses and individuals are unaware that "protected" documents they send out are in fact susceptible to modification. I think that's just plain irresponsible.

By Robert Vamosi at ZDNet.

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