Microsoft’s 'track changes' feature a security risk

Microsoft's ‘track changes’ feature in Word is a potential security risk and makes a good case for distributing files by portable document format (PDF) only, says Michael Rasmussen of the Giga Information Group.

  • E-Mail
By  Matthew Southwell Published  September 10, 2001

Microsoft's ‘track changes’ feature in Word is a potential security risk and makes a good case for distributing files by portable document format (PDF) only, says Michael Rasmussen of the Giga Information Group.

The analyst explains that when track changes is turned on in a Word document, it allows viewers to see all of the changes in previous versions of the document and, if the feature isn't turned off properly, any reader down the line may be able to see older versions of the same document, embedded underneath the text displayed. The fault becomes even more dangerous, he says, when a savvy user, who knows how to look for the proprietary information that appears to be invisible, receives the document.

“Office workers who distribute information, especially to customers, should be counseled on the way to use and to disable track changes. For example, if a client-specific document is repurposed for another client, even if it's just to use it as a template, it may not be enough to simply read the document through and replace names and numbers,” he says.

Rasmussen’s advice is simple: “Make sure [that when you are] sending documents that unintended information is not being given away by systematically checking off the track changes feature, accepting or rejecting the changes or turning off the tracking and saving the document under a new name.” If this is done, then ‘track changes’ will remain a feature rather than a security fault.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code