Microsoft Corp. has quietly released a redaction tool for Office Word 2003 to let users black out sections of confidential data from documents.
The security tool, available as a free download, plugs into Microsoft Office Word 2003 to offer a simple interface for marking sections of a document for redaction.
The tool runs on Windows 2000 Service Pack 3; Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Service Pack 1.
The tool could come in useful for government departments and businesses worried about the leakage of sensitive documents and confidential legal information.
It could also be used to protect details in insurance and other contracts that are printed or distributed electronically.
The redaction tool works perfectly for securing documents without losing formatting and design. Without the tool, businesses will typically delete the sensitive text, but this disrupts the format.
In addition to providing document security, Microsoft is using the tool to show off the extensibility of the Office 2003 document processing suite.
Earlier this year, the U.S. militarys inability to properly redact text in a sensitive document led to a public relations nightmare when journalists discovered that blacked out sections of a PDF document could be easily read.
The U.S. military command in Iraq used the black highlighter function in a Microsoft Word document before converting it to PDF, allowing readers to easily separate the black text from the black highlighter and read the classified text.
The issue called attention to the increasing ubiquity of PDF and underscored the importance of proper redaction tools.