Microsoft Takes Heat for Office 2003 SP3 File Format Blocking

 
 
By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-01-03
 
 
 

Microsoft is facing criticism from a competitor and some customers for its decision to block some older file formats with Office 2003 Service Pack 3, which it released last September.

The only non-Microsoft file format that was blocked by Service Pack 3 was CorelDraw .CDR files.

"CorelDraw users can rest assured that they can still use the CorelDraw Graphics Suite normally on a system where Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3 has been installed," Gerard Metrallier, Corels director of graphics product management, said in a statement released Jan. 3.

"This update from Microsoft does not impact CorelDraw at all or the capability of opening .CDR files from within CorelDraw or from Windows Explorer," he said.

The service pack also blocks some of Microsofts own file formats, according to a Knowledge Base article the company released that covers the issue.

"After you install Office 2003 SP3, some Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Office Word 2003, and Corel Draw (.cdr) file formats are blocked. By default, these file formats are blocked because they are less secure. They may pose a risk to you," the article states.

Click here to read more about Office 2003 SP3.

Corel, like some customers, is wondering what the basis was for Microsofts decision to block some older file formats for being "less secure."

"We have unsuccessfully tried to figure out the basis for categorizing .CDR files as less secure, and sites such as FrSIRT or US-CERT dont have any information about CorelDraw. However, we are currently working with Microsoft to get more details about this issue, as we want to make 100 percent certain our file formats pose no security concern for any of our users," Metrallier said. Metrallier said that if there is a known problem that has security implications, "we will get this resolved as quickly as possible."

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment.

Other online commentators have criticized Microsofts decision to block these older file formats by default.

When Microsoft made Office 2003 SP3 available as a free download last September, a company spokesperson told eWEEK that the service pack included new features and tools—such as MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment) and File Block—which were developed as part of the 2007 Microsoft Office system.

Whats so hard to understand about MOICE? Click here to read more.

These two security tools were released separately earlier in 2007,and reduced the threat of malware concealed within Microsoft Office documents, a white paper released along with the service pack said.

MOICE allows users to open Microsoft Office documents from unknown senders with relative safety. It uses the converters in the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 file formats to convert binary format files into the newer Office Open XML format, the paper said.

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