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Microsoft rolls back blocking Office VBA macros by default

Microsoft rolls back blocking Office VBA macros by default


Microsoft is reworking its Office VBA macro blocks

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft is rolling back a planned change to block Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros by default in a variety of Office apps. Announced earlier this year, Microsoft had been planning to prevent Office users from easily enabling certain content in files downloaded from the internet that include macros, in a move to improve security against malicious files. Microsoft had been testing this change ahead of a planned rollout to all Microsoft 365 users in June, but suddenly reverted the block on June 30th.

BleepingComputer reports that Microsoft notified IT admins last week that it was rolling back the VBA macro block based on feedback from Office users testing the changes. “We appreciate the feedback we’ve received so far, and we’re working to make improvements in this experience,” reads a Microsoft 365 message.

The new security banner that Microsoft had planned.
The new security banner that Microsoft had planned.
Image: Microsoft

The unusual rollback has surprised some Microsoft 365 users, as many had been waiting years for Microsoft to be more aggressive about blocking macros from Office files. Hackers have been regularly targeting Office documents with malicious macros, and Office has typically prompted users to click to enable macros running with a simple button. Microsoft’s planned changes meant Office users would only be able to enable the macros by specifically ticking an unblock option on the properties of a file.

Some IT admins left surprised by the last-minute rollback

Those extra steps clearly haven’t been well received by some users. “Another terrible update idea from Microsoft,” remarked one commenter on Microsoft’s original announcement, and others criticized how difficult it was for end users to enable macros. Others are surprised Microsoft is rolling back the changes without effectively communicating to IT admins that the company is reworking the VBA macro block. Many IT admins had been preparing users for the macro changes, as it’s a shift that would require user training.

Microsoft hasn’t explained what improvements it’s now planning to make to the VBA macros block, or when it will roll out once again. “Based on feedback received, a rollback has started,” says Angela Robertson, a principal group product manager for Microsoft 365. “An update about the rollback is in progress. I apologize for any inconvenience of the rollback starting before the update about the change was made available.”