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Increase Your Microsoft Office Security

For more tips on Cyber Security, head over to our article “Tips for Increase Cyber Security“.

Technology is becoming an essential part of people’s lives, helping facilitate their day-to-day activities. It has also become the arena for many malicious actors trying to inflict damage to their victims. This article will look at steps that an individual can take to improve the security of their Microsoft Office applications.

We will also provide a basic cheat-sheet for non-tech savvy readers to increase their cyber security.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft office products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook have been very popular for decades, helping businesses and individuals with their day-to-day operations. This popularity has also attracted malicious actors that are intent on using the product to gain access to your electronics and data. To improve Microsoft Office security, emphasis will be put on key security settings and cheat-sheets to help protect overall security.

Trust Center Settings

Most MS Office solutions contains a Trust Center where it allows you to increase/decrease the security level of the software. Below is a list of settings that can be changed to conform to the level of sophistication that the user has.

On average, it is preferable that ‘non tech savvy’ users receive training to ensure they are well equipped to navigate the challenges of the technological world since it is difficult to determine when someone will gain access to an electronic without the setting provided below.

 

Note: Microsoft Word has been used for exemplification purposes, most MS Suite solutions follow the same rationale. For Microsoft Excel Security, refer to this and for Microsoft Powerpoint security refer to this link.

 

Open Microsoft Office Software >File > Options > Trust Center > Trust Center Settings.

Word document security improvements

Trusted Documents

Go to the ‘Trusted Documents’ segment and check mark “Disable Trusted Documents”.

Add-ins

  • For Tech savvy – Check mark the “Require Application Add-ins to be signed by Trusted Publisher”
  • For Non tech savvy – Check mark “Disable all Application Add-ins (may impair functionality)”as long as user is not expected to use ‘Add’ins for their daily operations

ActiveX Settings:

  • For Tech savvy – choose “Prompt me before enabling Unsafe for Initialization (UFI) controls with additional restrictions and Safe for Initialization (SFI) controls with minimal restrictions“ & checkmark “Safe Mode”
  • For Non Tech savvy – choose “Disable all controls without notification” unless user is expected to receive documents with ActiveX. In such cases, extra training may be required to ensure they understand the risks. Always check mark “Safe Mode”

Macro Settings

  • For Tech savvy – “Disable all macros with notification”
  • For Non Tech savvy – “Disable all macros without notification” unless user is expected to receive documents with Macros. In such cases, extra training may be required to ensure they understand the risks.

Technical: If (Status = 1 or N/A, then leave it blank), otherwise if status is Blank, then let the user know that the “Status is Unavailable”. If none of the points raised before have occurred, then take the Due Date minus Today’s Date.

Protected View

Checkmark all options. 

Message Bar Settings for All Officer Applications

  • For Tech savvy – Pick “Show the message bar in all applications when active content, such as ActiveX controls and macros has been blocked
  • For Non Tech savvy – Choose “Never show information about blocked content” unless user is expected to receive documents that they are expected to open with active content. In such cases, extra training may be required to ensure they understand the risks.

Good Habits

  • Do not download or open files from untrusted sources
  • Keep MS Office, antivirus & computer systems up-to-date
  • Do not open attachments from untrusted sources
  • Do not click on hyperlinks from untrusted sources.
  • Always look for cues to determine whether the trusted source is really who you think it is or whether someone is acting as if they are impersonating them.

Technology Cheat-Sheet

In General:

  • Reach out to a family member or trusted advisor if something looks off. Their feedback can help you make an informed decision.
  • Always double check the sources before providing personal or company information.
  • Do not visit, click, download or install anything from an untrusted sources.
  • Scammers will often create a sense of urgency to get you to act before thinking. Always remember that!
  • Do not provide personal/corporate/financial information when an entity requests it unless you are 110% certain of the validity of the request.
  • Be mindful that scammers will use legit entities to try to get to you.
  • [Stay Safe from Phishing & Scams] video by Google
  • Remember to password protect anything of value. Always use a different password.
  • Always keep an eye for unsuspected shoulder surfing.
  • Do not leave your electronic without supervision. If that is not an option, always physically and digitally lock it.
  • Do not click on “You have a virus”, “Free money” pop-ups.
  • Always have a backup (digital or otherwise) for important data.
  • Keep your device up-to-date to ensure the highest security and quality of service.

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