For those of you who think your Word and Excel documents are safe just because you enable password protection – you’re wrong.
The “average” non-technical computer user, might not be able to access your files but anyone with some knowledge of technology can purchase a program that can easily crack passwords of many popular applications.
CNet’s Robert Vemois writes A Microsoft encryption flaw similar to one first reported back in 1998 in Windows NT has resurfaced in recent versions of Microsoft Office, rendering the password feature in Word and Excel open to hacking. According to Hongjun Wu, a cryptographer at the Institute of Infocomm Research in Singapore, it is possible to compare two password-protected Word or Excel drafts and discern the original password. Microsoft says this is a minor vulnerability, but security experts disagree: weak password protection is sometimes worse than no password protection. Weak password protection gives the illusion that you are safe when you are not.
If you want to increase the security of your documents you should consider using a file compression program like PKZip or Winzip to better secure them.