Microsoft officials say plans are on the way for a weapon that can help protect Office 2003 from attacks, though users of even older versions of Office may find themselves left out in the cold. The company is developing a tool called MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment), which converts files from Office 2003 to the new Office 2007 Open XML format in a bid to strip exploits out of the file. Once a file has been cleansed of exploits, it can be opened as normal in Office 2003.
"One of the things we noticed is that when we converted an exploit document to the new Office 2007 'Metro' format, it would either fail the conversion [or] emit a nonexploitable file, or the converter itself would crash," Microsoft Senior Software Development Engineer David LeBlanc wrote in a recent blog post. "Thus," he continued later in the post, "if we could pre-process documents coming from untrusted sources from the older format to the new format, and then get an older version of Office to use its converter to read in the new file format, the customer is going to end up safer."