Secure Word 2007 Documents

By on Dec 2, 2010

Many times Word documents are sent to clients and can often, unintentionally, contain confidential or embarrassing information. Some documents may contain metadata that can include tracked changes, comments and author information that you don’t want clients to see.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can perform to protect this information and/or remove it from the document prior to sending. The following information pertains to Word 2007 documents and features. Be sure to save your document prior to launching any of these tools.

Inspect Document 

Word 2007’s Document Inspector consolidates many of the tasks performed by a number of Office 2003 add-ins that you would have to download. You should inspect your document as the last step prior to sending it out.

To perform this process simply choose “Prepare,” and then “Inspect Document.” The Document Inspector dialog box launches. This dialog box controls inspection tools you need to run to ensure the Word 2007 document is secure and devoid of any confidential information. The Inspect Document dialog box includes the following options:

    • Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations. This option inspects document metadata, including comments, revision marks, annotations and versions. There are many stories floating around on the Internet about Word documents that have been released to external parties containing embarrassing comments or previous revisions that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.
    • Document Properties and Personal Information. You may not want the author name and related information going outside of your organization. If your staff is dutiful about filling out document properties and personal information, then selecting Document Properties and Personal Information means that third parties won’t see this information if they explore your Word document’s metadata.
    • Custom XML Data. If your organization is using an XML-based publishing system with Word documents then it is going to be important for you to inspect what custom XML data external viewers can access.
    • Headers, Footers, and Watermarks. Run this inspection and you’ll discover any metadata residing in your Word document’s headers, footers, and watermarks.
    • Hidden Text. Word can hide text. Use this tool to find it and make sure it doesn’t contain confidential or embarrassing information.

Encrypt Document 

Using Word’s document encryption can be a tricky decision because it can become more trouble than it is worth if you don’t manage it carefully. There is nothing worse than not being able to open an important encrypted document, and if you lose a password, Word 2007 doesn’t let you recover it. However, document encryption can be a useful tool when you need to restrict a document for a group of select readers.

Choose “Prepare,” and then “Encrypt Document.”

It is easy to dismiss Word document security as unnecessary because you don’t think your documents are leaking any secrets. However, instituting a policy of running Document Inspector isn’t going to add much time to your publishing cycle and potentially could save you from letting potentially embarrassing information slip out in stray metadata.

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