Microsoft is making its Office apps more secure by blocking Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros obtained from the Internet by default. Office users will no longer be able to enable these macros with the click of a button, and the apps will soon display a message bar with a security warning and a support page instead.
To enable these macros, Office users will need to save the file on a local hard drive, network drive, or cloud storage service like OneDrive, and then unblock the file manually. Microsoft already has a support page with detailed instructions on how to proceed, and this same page will be available in the message bar that will show up when Office users open files with VBAs macros coming from the Internet.
This new default behavior regarding Office macros will apply to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, and Access. As macros obtained from the Internet have been a notorious source of malware, Microsoft believes that this change should better protect consumers and enterprise customers using Office.
“For years Microsoft Office has shipped powerful automation capabilities called active content, the most common kind are macros. While we provided a notification bar to warn users about these macros, users could still decide to enable the macros by clicking a button. Bad actors send macros in Office files to end-users who unknowingly enable them, malicious payloads are delivered, and the impact can be severe including malware, compromised identity, data loss, and remote access,” explained Microsoft’s Kellie Eickmeyer.
Microsoft plans to start blocking VBA macros obtained from the Internet in Office by default in early April 2022, and the new default behavior will roll out first to Microsoft 365 subscribers in the Current Channel (Preview). The change will also make its way to Office LTSC, Office 2021, Office 2019, Office 2016, and Office 2013, though Microsoft has yet to share an ETA.