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MS Office 2010 has a "Protected view" feature where it opens documents originating from the internet in read-only mode to protect me from vulnerabilities. I do have an antivirus program (Avira) though. Can you give me a run-down of the risks of enabling editing in this case? E.g., what can a malicious document do that won't be caught by the antivirus program or by Windows firewall?

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If it contains malicious content that Avira is unable to detect you will infect yourself –  Ramhound May 9 '12 at 15:32

3 Answers 3

It depends. The document might contain something that the antivirus doesn't yet detect, especially if your malware definitions haven't been updated recently.

In any case, the key to good computer security is layers. Protected View is simply yet another layer that helps keep malware away from your computer, just like an antivirus, firewall, UAC and so on. And just like with any of those other layers, it's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it (or rather, to discover you would've needed it).

You can read more about Protected View here:
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/what-is-protected-view-HA010355931.aspx

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In short... 99% of this depends on your anti-virus application, and how it performs it's scanning. For the majority of anti-virus applications out there... I would suggest leaving the "Protected View" switched on, unless there is a specific reason to disable it.

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Simply put; a document could have malicious macros or code written into it which is triggered by the load or open event. Commands from macros or VBA code are not necessarily caught by virus protection. Without Protected View, the code would be allowed to run without your permission.

Protected view gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to allow the macros or code to run once you've verified you can trust the document and/or source.

Here is more information on why Microsoft developed Protected View in Office 2010.

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