Software

Microsoft releases Office 2003 SP3

The third service pack for Microsoft Office 2003 is now <a href="http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/default.aspx" target="_blank">available for download</a>. <br /><br /> According to eWeek, SP3 enhances security by including recent and individually released patches. Several new features and tools are included in the package, such as MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment) and File Block, which is actually developed as part of Office 2007.

The third service pack for Microsoft Office 2003 is now available for download.

According to eWeek, SP3 enhances security by including recent and individually released patches. Several new features and tools are included in the package, such as MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment) and File Block, which is actually developed as part of Office 2007.

Excerpt from the article:

MOICE allows users to open Microsoft Office documents from unknown senders with relative safety. It uses the converters in the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 file formats to convert binary format files into the newer Office Open XML Format...

File Block complements MOICE by allowing IT administrators to temporarily prevent certain file formats from opening through registry or group policy. This provides companies with the flexibility needed to quickly respond to evolving threats without unduly limiting productivity...

There are some changes in Office 2003 SP3 that might adversely affect systems and workflows though:

  • Office 2003 SP3 now automatically tests and limits all COM components with potentially insecure functions. This might result in some components not being able to work at all or run with reduced functionality
  • Legacy file formats are also blocked by default to prevent vulnerabilities in the older formats from being used as an attack vector
  • Fast save feature in Word 2003 has been disabled to protect against improper disclosure due to certain types of metadata being inadvertently saved (Fast save is a feature that speeds up document saving)

Given the downside highlighted above, would you install Office 2003 SP3 in your organization?

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

16 comments
Nodisalsi
Nodisalsi

The update requires PRO.MSI which is in the install path - if it can't be found then your whole Office 2003 installation is broken.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...if you only have the small version of the SP exe. I forget what microsoft calls them, but they (usually) have two versions of Office SPs available at http://download.microsoft.com (or they did wiuth earlier SPs anyway) - they tell you clearly the smaller one will require the original installation CD, or you can get the larger administrator or full version which contains all the files required for a standalone Service Pack installation.

raisch
raisch

"Legacy file formats are also blocked by default to prevent vulnerabilities in the older formats from being used as an attack vector" Laugh. In other words, less backwards compatibility. And while the term "blocked by default" implies the feature can be configured not to block, it does little more than to place yet another roadblock in the path of those, like myself, who are very happy with the current product (despite its flaws) and see no reason whatsoever to pay M$FT more for things of which they have no need.

fredeppy
fredeppy

I just think I'm gonna leave it alone, I 'm just an old retired guy who is happy with his Office 2003 the way it is. I tried 2007 during the beta and had troubles with some functions in Word ( could not make it print address labels correctly) so I bought Office 2003 Student and Teacher and it has worked fine since I installed it. Fred

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

After I DO MY RESEARCH AND TESTING...if I find this SP to be up to par, I will install Microsoft Office SP3 in my organization. Will it take a while? Of course it will, because I am a great IT professional who takes his job very seriously.

gcostigan
gcostigan

I am going to take me time and let my staff find all the landmines here in the office before I update it at home. Happy Talk like a Pirate Day

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

All in the "I hate Microsoft" Bandwagon! Please, please, please....before you respond to this blog or this post, PLEASE RESEARCH THIS SP! Go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923618 and READ! This is not "evil" MS with a hidden agenda. This is just another service pack for Office for cripes sake! I have installed SP3 on 4 of my 5 test machines and have had no real issues so far. In response to Paul's "downsides" that he has listed above, 1. Office 2003 SP3 now automatically tests and limits all COM components with potentially insecure functions. This might result in some components not being able to work at all or run with reduced functionality. MS has both a resolution and a workaround for this issue already and I have tested both. Also, the SP does NOT limit all COM components. Most on my machines were unaffected. 2. Legacy file formats are also blocked by default to prevent vulnerabilities in the older formats from being used as an attack vector. Boo-hoo...my Excel 5.0/95 isn't compatable anymore. *in the "more information" section about this issue: Microsoft has increased the level of security for VBA macros in Microsoft Excel 5.0/95 Workbook files in Office 2003 SP3. This change provides more control for you to determine which macros will run. Additionally, this change helps prevent security attacks on earlier file formats. 3. Fast save feature in Word 2003 has been disabled to protect against improper disclosure due to certain types of metadata being inadvertently saved (Fast save is a feature that speeds up document saving) Is this really an issue? I don't even USE fast save. I have had plenty of issues where I have deleted or moved things, only to have them reappear do to "fast save". These are all "non-issues" to me but then again it's just my opinion and I am entitled to it. What is the basis of most all IT knowledge? Research! Learn, read, research, and test before you make an opinion. That is the problem with the IT industry as a whole these days, there are too many uneducated, so-called "IT professionals" out there that don't do any more research than is absolutely necessary and get all their information from blogs and forums from people with their own biases, agendas, and opinions. Make up your own minds people! Is MS perfect? Hell no! Does that mean every time they release a product or patch it is a bad thing. No, of course not. But, keep believing what you believe and holding what biases you have. It just means more jobs for me as an IT professional certified in the technologies of the world market leader! Thumbs up! -Richard- MCSA, CCNA

Don't Read This
Don't Read This

There's always someone who comes along to whine about people who don't like Microsoft. I really have to wonder what these people actually do with MS products. I work in a large IT shop for a 20,000 user network and I create all of the drive images for the organization. We all work with MS products every day and there is no question that MS produces third rate products. We all know it and have to deal with it every day, because Microsoft markets to the execs and avoids the techs. They have done an excellent job of creating a monopoly, and THAT is why their software is a market leader - it is in no way related to good products. BTW - we are 'real' IT professionals, if anyone here started calling themselves 'great' IT professionals they would be laughed out the door. Just like any tech that brags about MS certifications - a sure sign of a clueless newb. There's nothing wrong with MS certs, they just mean you have some basics. MS certification is to IT the same as a high school diploma is to MacDonalds.

Endoscopy
Endoscopy

I really liked the part where the resolution to opening a file that won't open is to have the person who wrote it save it to a format Office 2003 will now open. Question How do you do that if you are the created using the previously unpatched office program?

Josh Schwartz
Josh Schwartz

Richard you have summed up my thoughts exactly. Make your own decisions based on actual testing not what someone else tells you to think. Follow the lemmings Microsoft is evil oooohhh. I am testing it now on a Virtual PC and will make a decision accordingly. If I decide to install it, my Windows Server Update Service will push it out with ease.

fmcgowan
fmcgowan

Sadly, the patches will probably be installed whether I want it or not. I generally use OpenOffice.org to write my DOC files these days, anyway. I *know* I will be able to open or print them in the future while I *know* I cannot open old (Word 5.5 for DOS) DOC files in Word- already. The same is true of the other Office components; files created using older versions are unavailable already IF you use MS-Office. "Legacy files are also blocked by default..." would make my life difficult by taking away recently created documents to which I need access. I think I'll stick with OOo.

jalee1011
jalee1011

Wow... a release that just blatantly shouts to you "who cares about what you want..." way to go microsoft.... ya hoo

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...but that's what Vista has been doing for months, and I still hear very little bleatng about that. I tried it. For about 3 weeks. Then my patience was exhausted. Formatted back to XP. So the answer is, no, I won't be installing SP3 for Office 2K3! But it's going to be a mission to avoid, because MS update is going to do its damnedest to install it while I'm not looking!

paulmah
paulmah

Would you install Office 2003 SP2 in your organization?

EcoMedia
EcoMedia

I have had it with Microsoft, I would change is a flash of an eye, but I am an consultant and my clients are hooked on MS. I do have to say, MS products work together well, however how can you support a company that uses it's private links to make their software cohere to itself. They try to circumvent any attempt at open document exchange. There is no way, at the moment, I will upgrade (?) to Vista or any other product from MS. The products supplied more then 8 years ago handle most of business needs we (the IT community) have slowed the upgrade process because there is no real benefit other then mothballing products. If it isn?t broken why fix it. Please if anyone works for a company that ?needs? these MS enhancements please tell me why and I will reconsider.

TechinMN
TechinMN

Let's see. It prevents opening and saving most non-MS formats. It prevents opening and saving older MS formats, and per the MS info page, it would like you to believe that this only affects Office 97 and earlier. Which is understandable, except that... It also prevents (and sneaks in a non-specific blurb on it) many Office 2003 files from being used. Touted as "a major evolution in security for Office 2003" it seems more like an MS-sponsored virus that wants to force us to get Office 2007. Why? Because "[a]fter you install Office 2003 SP3, some Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Office Word 2003, and Corel Draw (.cdr) file formats are blocked. By default, these file formats are blocked because they are less secure. They may pose a risk to you." Which is horribly funny, considering they were supposed to be SOOOO secure before. Sure, you can override these defaults...but only after jumping through hoops and digging through a boat load of KB articles to find out how to do it properly. Will I be installing it in my organization? Of course not!

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