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Tag: office

Unprotecting Excel Spreadsheets Without The Password

Posted by Andrew at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2013

Microsoft Excel LogoSpreadsheets and Microsoft Excel in particular are great tools for any kind of numerical analysis, but they’re good for handling and storing other data as well. I seem to recall a survey a few years ago that Excel was the #1 database in the world with Access, Oracle and SQL Server lagging very far behind. Of course, it all depends on your definition of a database but the point is made.

Excel has useful features for developing forms and hiding information so that it’s easy to create mini apps which take user entered information, combine with data stored in the spreadsheet and provide an answer. Some of the spreadsheets are very sophisticated and Excel offers a “protect” feature that locks down a sheet (or workbooks) and prevents unwanted meddling or fiddling with the data. The protect feature even lets the owner set a password so that the more determined meddler can be thwarted and confidential data kept confidential.

Except it doesn’t. Any protected Excel spreadsheet can be unprotected in three steps. Here’s how.

With the Excel spreadsheet open,

  1. Press Alt + F11 (or go to View Code in the Developer’s Tab)
  2. In the window that appears, paste in this code (courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay)
    Sub PasswordBreaker()
        'Breaks worksheet password protection.
        Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
        Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
        Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
        Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
        On Error Resume Next
        For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
        For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
        For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
        For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
        ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
            Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
            Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
        If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
            MsgBox "One usable password is " & Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
                Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
                Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
             Exit Sub
        End If
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    End Sub
  3. Press F5 (or click Run) and wait a minute or so…..hey presto, spreadsheet unprotected.

On my modest PC it takes about 80 seconds to crack the password and it seems to come up with a password such as AABBAAABBB^ which isn’t the original password but nevertheless works. Spreadsheet is now unprotected. Try it for yourself.

Shocked? Surprised? Worried about a .xls that you sent last week with confidential data in it? I’m sure lots of people would be very worried if they knew how easy it was to unprotect a sheet.

To be fair to Microsoft, the help page says, “IMPORTANT  Worksheet and workbook element protection should not be confused with workbook-level password security. Element protection cannot protect a workbook from users who have malicious intent. For optimal security, you should help protect your whole workbook file by using a password.” Personally, I think setting a password sets unrealistic expectations about the level of protection; in some ways it would be better if there was no password option as there would be no expectation.

Overall, it’s best to think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way of making the spreadsheet more convenient to use and don’t ever think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way to hide secret information.

Microsoft pulls Outlook 2013 patch

Posted by Alan at 3:36 AM on September 12, 2013

Microsoft logoThis week was the monthly Patch Tuesday, a time when Microsoft sees fit to push out updates to various software, most notably Windows and Office. Its a tense time, thanks to past problems that have resulted in unbootable computers for some customers. This month did not cause anything quite so drastic, but it also did not pass without notice.

The company pushed a patch for Outlook 2013, but quickly had to pull that particular update from the set due to reports of customers having issues with KB2817630, which was a non-security update.

The problem arose from a version incompatibility between outlook.exe and mso.dll, a mismatched reference to a data structure causes the “minimize” button in the navigation pane to render incorrectly, typically by appearing extremely large to the point that the navigation pane is “invisible” to the user. The issue only appears when incompatible versions of outlook.exe and mso.dll exist on the system.

Not all versions of the latest Outlook for Office were affected:

Affected

  • Office 2013 Standard
  • Office 2013 Professional Plus

Not Affected

  • Office 2013 Home & Student
  • Office 2013 Home & Business
  • Office 2013 Professional
  • Office 365 Home Premium
  • Office 365 Professional Plus
  • Office 365 University
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium
  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 Enterprise

Microsoft promises that it is “working on re-publishing the September Public Update with the correct versions of both mso.dll and outlook.exe to ensure users with automatic updates enabled will receive the correct fix. We will update this blog with further information as our schedule develops”.

3M’s Personal Projectors at The Gadget Show

Posted by Andrew at 12:28 AM on April 17, 2012

3M LogoPowerpoint and data projectors have become synonymous with business presentations and I dread to think how many people I have bored over the years. As with almost any technology, the data projectors have got smaller and cheaper, but this was the first time I’d seen how small personal projectors had become. As you can see from the photograph, most would actually fit in a (large) pocket.

3M Pocket Projectors

3M have a range of seven projectors, of which four were on show at The Gadget Show. Unsurprisingly, the different models have different capabilities and there’s more product information here (not all the new models are on the site yet), but I was genuinely impressed by how good the pictures were. The NEC is not a darkened room and yet it was easy to see the presentation or film that was being projected.

As you’d expect the different models have different features; battery size, wireless connectivity, in-built memory and a new model, the MP220, runs Android (it’s the one on the left side of the photograph). I chat with Peter from 3M about the new additions to the range.

Parax Paper Made From Stone at The Gadget Show

Posted by Andrew at 3:36 PM on April 12, 2012

Parax Paper NotebookI wasn’t expecting to see this at The Gadget Show, but it was interesting nevertheless. Parax Paper is paper made from stone rather than wood. Instead of cellulose, the main constituent is calcium carbonate, the mineral in both limestone and chalk. Unsurprisingly, this gives the paper a naturally white appearance and is extremely smooth to the touch. Best of all, it’s waterproof!

In comparison to ordinary paper, it’s less environmentally damaging on a number of fronts. Production uses no water and there’s no damaging acids or alkalis used in the process. Parax Paper is recyclable and it photo-degrades in about a year. On the downside, inks take a little longer to dry as the surface isn’t as porous as normal paper and it can’t be used in laser printers as the carbon-based toner won’t bind with the surface.

However, there was wide range of Parax Paper products on show, including notepads, stationery, envelopes, paper bag and plates. Their website doesn’t yet seem to have an on-line store but in the meantime, you can listen to my interview with Parax Sales Director Simon Stockford.

Sococo Virtual Office Space

Posted by Andrew at 8:16 AM on February 3, 2012

Sococo LogoSococo is a virtual office space for distributed teams, teleworkers and road-warriors that uses real-world metaphors to make them feel like they’re in the office. Andy gets face-to-face with CEO Chris Wheeler at CES 2012 Showstoppers.

Sococo Screenshot

As you can see from the screenshot above, Sococo creates a virtual world that is analogous to a workplace, with conference rooms, team rooms, personal offices, cubicles - I imagine there’s even a water cooler. Small avatars then represent colleagues and their activities, so if some of them are having an (online) meeting, they’ll be located in a conference room. If someone doesn’t want to be disturbed, they can close their office door, complete with sound effect!

Sococo has other collaboration tools, such as screen sharing, but even the simple office space representation makes people feel much more included and part of a team.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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GNC-2012-01-30 #738 The Voice

Posted by geeknews at 12:47 AM on January 31, 2012

End of the month show, big Thank You to our sponsors and Thank You for supporting them. Starting to implement some hardware upgrades here in the studio we will see how they work out. If you have not checked it out yet be sure to listen to our live audio stream available 24/7 see sidebar links here on the website.

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Google Docs Update

Posted by Alan at 6:51 PM on March 15, 2011

Google announced today another update to their online Docs software.  If you haven’t used Google Docs, it basically an online Office-type application that beat Microsoft to the punch.  Docs is great for online collaboration and cloud storage.  The latest update allows users to graph multiple ranges and the ability to hide sheets.

Graphing multiple ranges can be done by clicking on Select ranges… and add another range. This gives users the ability to create charts that show multiple graphs to contrast different trends.  It’s handy, especially if you want to contrast and compare such things as origins of web traffic or company income.  It’s something users have wanted for sometime now.

The ability to hide sheets is another Spreadsheet addition that Docs users will find helpful.  To enable it you simply need to click a sheet and choose Hide Sheet.  This doesn’t completely remove the sheet from a users view – to bring it back into view you can click the Hidden sheets option in the View menu.  This probably isn’t as needed as the graphing addition, but I’m sure there are users out there that were really wanting this option.

While Microsoft’s online version of Office, known as Office 365, continues to languish in private Beta, Google Docs is moving forward.  It’s encouraging that they are coming closer to a full suite that can rival Office.  They aren’t there yet, but in terms of online applications they are probably ahead.  And that, going forward, is probably the best place to be.

The Man Who Lied To His Laptop

Posted by tomwiles at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2010

I just finished listening to the unabridged Audible audio book version of “The Man Who Lied To His Laptop” by Clifford Nass and Corina Yen.

After many years of working as a software interface design consultant, Clifford Nass has developed the theory that human brains cannot completely and fundamentally distinguish the difference between interacting with people and interacting with devices. This book details nearly 30 experiments Nass has performed that back up this revolutionary theory.

Remember “Clippy” from Microsoft Word? Chances are, the mere mention of the dreaded Microsoft Office animated paperclip brings up wildly negative feelings. Clippy’s main flaw was that he couldn’t learn and kept badgering Office users over and over for carrying out repetitive tasks that were not mistakes. Even though users “knew” that Clippy was just an animated character, part of their brain actually related to Clippy as a real, despicable character that lived in their computers.

Similarly, BMW had a big problem with male German car owners complaining loudly about the integrated BMW GPS units. It turns out that German men objected over and over again to BMW’s help line that the BMW GPS units came equipped with a female voice, and that just wouldn’t do, because it just wasn’t “right” to take driving directions from a female voice. “Knowing” that mostly male engineers had developed it wasn’t enough to eliminate the problem.

The book is filled with some rather amazing results of experiments that indicate just how suggestible the average person really is. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Microsoft should reward customer Loyalty

Posted by todd at 12:54 PM on December 17, 2006

Microsoft-loyaltyMost households in America are now starting to see more than one computer in them. Today my kids share a single PC, and as they get older I am sure each will have to have their own. My wife and I each have laptops. Not to mention the desktop machine I use for show production. A road trip earlier in the year caused me to have an extra laptop that the wife uses, but before she went house mobile she had her own desktop machine.

This makes for a grand total 5 computers in my household all running Windows XP, of those machines 4 of them will be able to upgrade to Windows Vista and all five to Office 2007. When I start putting the calculator to this I realize that probably I can only afford to upgrade two of them with the respective versions I will want to run.

Here is where I get into the crux of the issue. I am a loyal Microsoft user and have a number of computers in my household that I will want to upgrade and because consumers are not afforded volume discounts I will be unable to upgrade them all.

Granted Microsoft usually deals with companies that buy bulk license but how come a consumer who needs to upgrade lets say more than 3 computers cannot be cut a break on the software cost. This reduces the chances that a consumer will try and apply a hack to save some money.

How about it should loyal customers be given discounts on volume purchases?

GNC-2006-11-14 #216

Posted by geeknews at 3:19 AM on November 14, 2006

Well we have another winner and he who won will be very surprised. I go after Microsoft and the Zune player in a big way tonight and I think you will agree with me they just don’t get it. Some serious Soap Box time tonight!

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Show Notes:
RIAA Spin Machine
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Zune and Microsoft Points!
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Vista & Office Hacked
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