Microsoft Restricts Excel 4.0 Macros by Default


Microsoft has announced improved security for the users of its flagship Office productivity suite, courtesy of Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros now being restricted by default.

Typically created for legitimate purposes, Microsoft Office macros have long been abused in malware attacks. If allowed to run, macros can be leveraged to execute code when an Office document is opened, without user interaction.

Half a decade ago, Microsoft announced that macros were blocked by default in Office 2016, to prevent the unwanted execution of malicious code.

Starting July last year, Microsoft has been providing administrators with the option to restrict the usage of Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros with a new setting in which these macros would be managed the same way as VBA macros.

Now, the company decided to restrict all Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros by default, and the setting has been turned on in the latest Excel version (Build 16.0.14427.10000).

Administrators looking to manage the behavior of XLM macros can head to the Excel Trust Center for that, where they need to modify the Group Policy setting “Macro Notification Settings” for Excel, Microsoft explained.

Furthermore, admins can deploy cloud policies with Office cloud policy service for policies in HKCU. These policies will apply to all users accessing files in Office apps while logged in with their AAD account, regardless of the device they use, the company said.

Redmond’s note said the Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) can be used to deploy ADMX policies for both HKCU and HKLM policies (which are managed from the cloud in MEM).

Related: Researcher Details Sophisticated macOS Attack via Office Macros

Related: Microsoft Edge Adds Security Mode to Thwart Malware Attacks

Related: Microsoft Office Patch Bypassed for Malware Distribution in ‘Dry Run’

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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