I constantly get email attachments of all sorts of Office documents and one of the worries I have is acquiring malware from embedded code in document that is sent to me. Office 2010 incorporates a multi-stage or multi-level approach to protect your system from this kind of attack.
In the image on the right you see an email with an Excel attachment that I am previewing on the screen. In previous versions of office, if I opened up the viewer I would be opening up the email and would have been subject to whatever files or malware that are present in that email.
Now the message is “Sandboxed” which means that it is viewed in a protected area of memory that is not connected to the rest of my computer operating system or applications. It is being viewed a bubble of sorts that the malware cannot breakthrough to infect my machine. If I choose to open the file in its native application by double clicking on the attachment, the document will again open in a protected mode that you see in the third image that allows me to look at the document, again “Sandboxed”, to determine if it is indeed something that I believe is coming from a safe source.
It is important to understand that the document has been scanned for any extra embedded code and the software would have reported that it found some macros, or embedded code in the document to give me warning that their might be something to worry about. If you click on the Enable Editing button the document will be taken out of its “Sandboxed” mode and be brought into a regular editable view of the document for you to work with. It is important to understand that this process is so streamlined now that their is no hesitation in the process other than the system stopping at the third image that you see above to ask for more input from you. While this may seem more cumbersome and feel like an intrusion to others this extra layer of protection that helps to prevent unwanted infestation to your system is very nice. Note that you can set up trusted sources in each of your applications so that this last defense line does not come into play on documents from certain sources, like your internal network files or your co-workers.