Microsoft Office blocks macros by default

Microsoft began rolling out an update to Microsoft Office that intercepts the use of VBA Visual Basic for Applications macros on downloaded documents.

This week, the change started rolling out to stop people from opening malware-laden files. But, of course, there’s been a bit of back and forth since the transformation was initially announced.

Microsoft tested the new default setting when it unexpectedly rolled back the update “temporarily while we make some extra changes to enhance usability.” Despite saying it was temporary, many experts stressed that Microsoft might not go through with changing the default setting, leaving systems vulnerable to seizures. For example, Google Threat Analysis Group leader Shane Huntley tweeted, “Blocking Office macros would do infinitely more to defend against real threats than all the threat intel blog posts.”

The new default scene is rolling out, but with updated language to alert users and administrators about what choices they have when they try to open a file and it’s blocked. It only applies if Windows, utilizing the NTFS file system, reports it as downloaded from the web and not a network drive or site admins marked it as safe. It isn’t changing anything on other platforms such as Office on Android / iOS, Mac, or Office on the web.

Microsoft: We’re continuing the rollout of this change in the Current Channel. We’ve made updates to the end user and the IT admin documentation to make your options for distinct scenarios more precise. For example, what to do if you maintain files on SharePoint or files on a network share. 

If you ever enabled or disabled the Block macros from running in Office files from the Internet policy, your organization will not be affected by this change.

While some people use the scripts to automate tasks, hackers have abused the feature with malicious macros for years, tricking people into downloading and running a file to compromise their systems. Microsoft noted how administrators could utilize Group Policy settings in Office 2016 to block macros across their organization’s systems. Still, not everyone turned it on, and the attacks continued, letting hackers steal data or distribute ransomware.

Users who try to open files and are blocked will get a pop-up sending them to this page, explaining why they probably don’t need to open that document. It starts with several scenarios where someone might try to trick them into executing malware. Suppose they do need to see what’s inside the downloaded file. In that case, it explains ways to get access, which are all more complicated than what transpired before, where users could usually allow macros by pressing one button in the warning banner.

This modification may not always stop someone from opening up a malicious file. However, it does deliver several more layers of warnings before they can get there while still providing access for the people that say they need it.

Visual Basic for Applications is part of Microsoft Corporation’s legacy software, Visual Basic, which Microsoft created to allow writing programs for the Windows operating system. Visual Basic for Applications operates as an internal programming language in Microsoft Office applications like Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Word, and Visio.

VBA lets users customize beyond what is ordinarily available with MS Office host applications—VBA is not a stand-alone program—by exploiting graphical-user-interface (GUI) features like dialogue boxes, toolbars, menus, and forms. You may use VBA to access Windows application programming interfaces (APIs), construct user-defined functions (UDFs), and automate specific computer processes and calculations.

VBA is an event-driven device that suggests you can use to tell the computer to initiate an action or string of activities. For example, you build custom macros—short for macroinstructions—by typing commands into an editing module.

A macro is a sequence of characters whose input results in another series of characters (its output) that achieves specific computing tasks. You do not need to buy the VBA software because VBA is the understanding of Visual Basic that ships with Microsoft Office 2010.

Visual Basic for Applications is the only variant of VB 6 that is still marketed and supported by Microsoft and just as an internal element of Office programs.

How is VBA Used?

Visual Basic for Applications lets users perform myriad functions beyond simple word processing and spreadsheet operations within MS Office applications. VBA helps to make frequent day-to-day tasks less repetitive via macros for the typical user. Macros can automate just about any job—like generating customized charts and reports and completing word- and data-processing functions. For instance, you can register a macro that, with a single tap, will make Excel create an unlimited balance sheet from a string of accounting entries in a spreadsheet.

Computer Professionals: Programmers, however, utilize macros in more complicated ways—like replicating large amounts of code, combining existing program functions, and devising specific languages.

Organizations and Companies: VBA can work in exterior—that is, non-Microsoft—settings by using a technology termed COM interface, which permits commands to interact across computer edges. Many companies have implemented VBA in their proprietary and commercial applications, including CATIA, CorelDraw, AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and SolidWorks.

Any firm may utilize VBA to customize Excel for a unique purpose, like discerning how long it would take to gain $1 million in an investment portfolio based on a typical interest rate and other elements, like the number of years until retirement.

How VBA Is Ubiquitous in Finance

At its core, finance is about collecting vast data; hence, VBA is endemic to the financial services sector. If you operate in finance, VBA is likely running within applications you use daily, whether you’re aware of it or not. Some positions in the sector need prior knowledge of VBA, and some do not.

Either way, if you like to pursue a career in finance, it’s essential that you know the latest technological tendencies in your domain and how to use automation in day-to-day movements. In addition, because VBA is user-intuitive, those with little or no computer programming knowledge can learn it quickly.

Ways That Finance Professionals Use VBA

  • Macros allow financial professionals—accountants, commercial bankers, investment bankers, research analysts, sales associates, traders, portfolio managers, clerks, or administrators—to analyze and adjust vast amounts of data quickly.
  • You can utilize VBA in Excel to create and maintain complex trading, pricing, and risk-management models, forecast sales and earnings, and generate financial ratios.
  • Visual Basic for Applications can create varied portfolio management and investment strategies.
  • You also may use VBA to produce lists of clients’ names or any other content; make invoices, forms, and charts; analyze scientific data; and manage data display for budgets and forecasting.