Sometimes when you open a document, you will see a message bar that displays the warning: Security Warning Macros have been disabled, together with a button that says Enable Content. This is Microsoft Office’s built in security feature at work.
On clicking the Macros have been disabled link, you are taken to Backstage View where you discover that “active content might contain viruses and other security hazards”, and that macros have consequently been disabled.
This raises two questions: why has this document triggered the warning, and what can you do about it?
If you collaborate on documents that originate from different sources, you will know that some sources you can trust and others you can’t. If you share documents with fellow co-workers in your office, it’s a good bet that you can trust them (the documents and your co-workers!). If, however, you receive a document from a third party company, how do you know you can trust it?
Let us suppose that you have a document that you don’t completely trust. What is the danger when you open it? If the document contains macros (an example of active content), then your distrust is justified. Macros are additional pieces of functionality that people write – usually to help the document’s reader. They might automate tedious, repetitive or complex tasks – and they can run automatically. However, they can also be used with malicious intent too. Amongst other things, macros have the power to delete files from your hard drive, and scramble the words in a document.
So, if you open a Word document that originates from an untrusted source, and it contains macros, you will see the warning above.
If you do trust the document, you can ignore the warning and click the Enable Content button either in the initial warning or in Backstage View. If you enable macros in Backstage View, you get these additional options:
Enabling content has the effect of turning on the macros that are embedded in the document. To read and even amend the document, though, you don’t need to enable content. You only need to enable content if you want to take advantage of the active content present in the document.
You can turn off this kind of warning in Word’s Trust Settings, but you are potentially taking a big risk if you do. We recommend that you don’t so we’re not going to tell you how to in this tutorial! Stay tuned for an upcoming tutorial on this, though.