[OL98] How to prevent user from editing received messages and attachments

(See also http://www.experts-exchange.com/Applications/MS_Office/Outlook/Q_20907132.html)

Using Outlook 98 with Exchange Server.

It may seem like a nifty feature that users can open incoming mail, modify it, and save it.  I've even used the ability to edit the subject line so it's easier to find things.

But recently, I opened a Word attachment and started editing it, intending to save a copy.  By mistake, I just saved it on exiting and discovered (to my dismay) that I had written over the original attachment.

And it creates a major question about using e-mail as an audit trail.

So, first, is there any way to prevent OL98 users from editing messages that they have received or sent?  What about editing attachments?

And, second, is there any way to tell that a message has been edited?  What about attachments?

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#1.  No, you can't prevent users from changing messages in their email folders.  You can set the read-only attribute on the attachment before sending it.  Then if the recipient does what you did they will get an error.  It won't prevent them from changing the document, it just makes it harder to do so inadvertently.

#2.  Open the message and click FILE->PROPERTIES.  You will see the date/time that the message was sent, received, and last modified.  Obviously if the last modified data is after the received date then it has been editied.

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vknowlesAuthor Commented:
Thanks, I was afraid that would be the answer.

I have increased the points because I have one more question:

Does that answer also hold for more recent versions of Outlook?

Any comment on why a mail client would allow editing of messages?  From a business perspective, it sure would be better to have a secure audit trail of conversations.

Well, Outlook 2003 has a button at the top of the message for "permission" which is designed to prevent a recipient from forwarding, printing or copying the content of a message.  I haven't played around with it, but it doesn't really do what you are requesting.  This requires, I believe, that you be running Windows 2003 Server as well so that digital rights management comes into play.

As far as editing goes, are you talking about double clicking on a message to open it in a seperate window and then going to EDIT->EDIT MESSAGE?  This allows you to make changes to a message that you are not forwarding or replying to, but it's not something that is done often.  Is this the problem that you have?  If someone tried to foist a doctored email off as proof of something the send/receive date/time vs the last modified date/time would certainly spoil that (as would the senders date/time in their sent items folder).

If you are talking about making changes to the body of a message when replying or forwarding, and wanting it to be apparent who said what, you normally just configuring the clients so that under TOOLS->OPTIONS->PREFERENCES TAB->EMAIL OPTIONS it marks any comments they add with their name.  Obviously this could be disabled by a user, but would be apparent when compaired to the original.

As for why this is possible, say someone sends you a message that is impossible to read for some reason.  You could change the font, font color, background, etc if needed.  Also just think that most email is simply broken down into data and spewed out thru the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).  How that data is put back together and displayed on the other end is the responsibility of the recipients email client.  The fact that you sent the data doesn't give you that much control over the other persons computer.  It's still just a stream of data that was captured and compiled into an email.  If all the email is going "intra-office" and never leaving the server, there is a bit more contol over it.  I've heard that Lotus Notes has the ability to clamp down maybe stronger than exchange.  But again, you are at the mercy in all of the situations that the recipient isn't going to try to get around any roadblocks or obstacles you put in their path, because they can if they try.  But it all comes back to what the sender sent and when, as compared ot what the recipient has now and when it was last modified.
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vknowlesAuthor Commented:
Thanks again.

Yes, I meant when using EDIT -> EDIT MESSAGE.  Of course, I can also edit the subject line, which I find useful at times but maybe also a problem for audit trail.

Especially thanks for the tip on checking the date modified.
vknowlesAuthor Commented:
I know this question is closed now, but I wanted to add something in case someone else looks at the solution.

On my Outlook98 system (using Exchange Server), the Modified date seems to get updated every time I move a message from one folder to another.  So that really isn't a reliable indicator, either.  I think Exchange Server is doing that...

The only way the Modified date stays the same as the Received date is if you leave it in the Inbox or Sent Mail or whatever.

vknowlesAuthor Commented:
Also, replying and forwarding a message appear to set the Modified date.

Jeez, virtually all of my messages look like they were modified (just from the dates)!
Copying or moving the message to another message folder does not always change the modification date/time; if the destination folder is a Personal Folders file (.pst), the modification date/time does not change. If the destination folder is an Exchange Server Mailbox or an Offline Folders file (.ost), the modification date/time does change.

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