- Microsoft Word may open documents downloaded from the Internet in Protected View disabling macros and other contents.
- If you want to work with or disable Protected View, check out our detailed guide on Protected View below.
- Also, take a look at the useful solutions found in this Microsoft Word issues section.
- Consider bookmarking our Microsoft Word Hub for more troubleshooting guides.
When opening a file downloaded from the internet in Word, you may have noticed it is opening in Protected View. This prevents the user from making any edits to the document unless Protected View is disabled or editing is enabled.
Files from the Internet and other potentially unsafe sources can contain viruses or malware that can harm your computer or compromise sensitive data.
To reduce the risk of malware attacks from Internet files, Word opens the document in Protected View. This way you can view the document while reducing the risk.
In this article, we discuss what is protected and if required how you can disable Protected View in Microsoft Word.
What is Protected View and how can I disable it?
What is Protected View?
Protected View is a read-only mode enabled for the Microsoft office documents downloaded from the internet and other potentially unsafe sources.
In the Protected View mode, most editing functions are disabled. Here are a couple of reasons why a file opens in Protected View:
- The file was opened from an internet location – Your file will open in Protected View if Microsoft Office determines the file to be opened from an internet location. The same can also be seen in the Protected View message at the top.
- The file was opened from an unsafe location – Even if you have opened a file from a local folder, like your download folder, the file may still open in Protected View if the folder is determined to be potentially unsafe by Microsoft Office.
- Outlook file from an unsafe sender – Microsoft Outlook will open an Outlook attachment in Protected View if your computer policy has defined the sender as unsafe.
How to Disable Protected View in Microsoft Word
Note: Disabling Protected View in Microsoft Word is not recommended due to security reasons. Proceed at your own risk.
- Open Word.
- Click on File and choose
- Click Trust Center.
- Open Trust Center
- Click Protected View.
- Uncheck all three options listed to disable Protected View.
- Click OK to save the changes.
Next time you open any Word document, Protected View will not screen the document the for-security issues. However, only disable Protected View if you trust the document and the source.
How to work with Protected View in Microsoft Office
While the Microsoft Protected View feature may seem like an annoying bug that comes up every time you open a document, it is a safety measure in place to protect you from potentials security risks.
When enabled ( it is enabled by default), Protected View opens documents in read-only mode with most edition options disabled.
You can click on Enable Editing to make changes and load other content of the document like images from the internet.
While it is easy to bypass Protected View and enable editing for documents, it is important to know how to manage Protected View to better understand how it works.
- Open Word.
- Click File > Options.
- Open Trusted Center > Trusted Center Settings.
- Choose Protected View.
Protected View for Microsoft Office apps offer three core-settings as listed below:
- Enable Protected View for Files Originating from the Internet.
- Enable Protected View for Files Located in Potentially Unsafe Location.
- Next, enable Protected View for Outlook Attachments.
All the core features are self-explanatory. However, Protected View can red flag other types of files such as documents from the older version of Office, files from someone else’s cloud storage account, and files that fail verification.
Before you enabling editing for any document that opens in Protected View, exercise caution to make sure the file and the source is trusted.
You can also disable one of the Protected View core features temporarily if the files keep opening in read-only mode. However, make sure to enable the feature once you are done editing the documents.
Reenable Protected View for Trusted Files
If you want to reenable Protected View for the document that you may have bypassed earlier by enabling editing, do the following.
- Open File > Options.
- Trusted Center > Trusted Center Settings.
- Open Trusted Documents.
- Click on the Clear button for Clear all Trusted Documents so that they are no longer trusted.
- Now all the files that you had enabled editing for will open in read-only mode.
Add Trusted Locations for trusted files
- Open File > Options.
- Go to Trusted Center > Trusted Center Settings.
- Open Trusted Locations.
- Here you can add or remove the path to folders that you want to be included in the Trusted Location.
Files and folders from Trusted Location will open without bumping into the Protected View mode.
How Microsoft Word “Protected View” prevents information leaks
Protected View is designed to reduce risk when working with the file downloaded from the internet or other potentially unsafe sources.
Microsoft Office apps such as Word makes document sharing easy. This means you can add files like images from the internet and send it to your clients via email or other mediums.
Potential attackers can include web trackers and other malicious codes through different ways to gain access to your computer or steal credentials.
Let us look at a couple of ways in which Protected View can prevent potentials cyber attacks to protect your data.
The author uses a web tracker if he/she wants to know if a word document is opened by the targeted user. To embed the tracker in the document, the sender will usually include an image that will load from the attacker’s server.
When you open the document with an embedded tracker, Protected View will display a message showing the document to be unsafe. The document in View-Only mode will not load or download any images to reduce risk.
However, should you choose to enable editing and let the image load from the sender’s server the tracker will leak the following information from your computer:
- Your IP Address
- OS and Microsoft Officer version
- Browser name and version
The attacker with this information can confirm that the end-user has opened the image. The attacker can use this information further to plan a more refined cyber-attack in the future.
SMB Injection Attack
Once the hacker has collected enough information using the Web Tracker method, the next step would be to try to gain access to your credentials. With successful SMB injection attacks, the hacker can impersonate you on your network and gain access within your company’s network.
The attack begins with a web tracker image attack but instead of using HTTP file reference, the attacker will use UNC File path specification to reduce suspicion.
The attacker’s server will masquerade as a genuine file server. When Microsoft Word tries to authenticate the connection, the responder on the attacker’s server will steal your credentials.
Even if the file share connection fails, the attacker will have access to your password which can be cracked using password cracking tools like Jhon-the-ripper, etc.
Apart from these attack types, the cyber attacker may also employ other methods to gain access to sensitive information and then to your network or computer.
In any case, making sure that Protected View remains enabled is one way to protect yourself from potentially unsafe files and cyber-attacks.
Protected View in Microsoft Word is a security feature that protects you from accidentally opening potentially harmful files that come embedded with malware or even trackers.
While this article shows you how to work with and disable Protected View, make sure that you reenable it once you are done working with the documents.
FAQs: Learn more about Microsoft Word Protected View
- Why can I not edit my Word document?
If you don’t have access to edit a Word document, then the file is most likely locked by the creator of the document.
- Can’t make changes because the selection is locked Word?
If you’re seeing the selection is locked error, it is most likely caused by your Office trial expiration. Extend your license to continue using the software.
- What does opening in Protected View mean?
Microsoft Office apps will open files from the internet and other sources in Protected View as a security measure. For an added layer of security check out our best Microsoft Word antivirus guide.