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Read Only Protection - Password changed/corrupted?

Posted on 2011-03-10
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
A document was created in Word 2003.  In Word 2007, the user edited the document to make it read only, allowing only particular sections to be edited.  She did this through the Protect Document feature.  She selected the areas she wanted others to be able to edit and then selected those users and started the enforcement.  She chose a password for this.

She went in and out of the document several times to verify everything was working and it was.

But today when she tried to make further changes and needed to stop the enforcment, she was notified that the password she'd entered was incorrect.

I was able to open the document in Word 2003 and used Script Editor to remove the enforcement, but I wasn't able to see what password had been used to protect the document.  The user is convinced that the password was somehow changed and is leery of using this feature in future.

It would be nice if I could somehow identify what password had been used.  The one that appeared in script editor was just a seemingly randomly generated number.  But lacking that, I'd be happy if I can offer an explanation to the user of what might have gone wrong with the document.

I know it's certainly possible that she changed the password and simply forgot that she had or even did it accidentally - but I find that very unlikely.

Any ideas what might have happened?  
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Question by:QBUser
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Expert Comment

by:GrahamSkan
ID: 35100656
Forms protection is not designed as a security measure, but is for the convenience of the document form designer and the data entry person... For that reason is is quite easy to remove that sort of protection, e.g. by going through an Insert/File... process. Anyone with that knowledge could thus remove the protection and re-protect with another password.

However discovering passwords is not so easy. In fact the rules of this forum generally are against giving advice on password cracking in case they could be used  to circumvent legitimate software protection.
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Author Comment

by:QBUser
ID: 35109051
Fair enough.  It would be nice if I were able to see what the password was at the time the user reported it as having been changed, so I could tell her one way or the other if it had indeed changed.  But if that's not easily possible, that's fine.  

However, there still remains my other question which is what happened to corrupt or change the password, or what in fact happened?  Is this feature unstable and subject to problems?

Although I'm usually the first to suspect user error in a situation like this, the reason I don't believe the user forgot the password is that she had only added that editing restriction the day before she encountered the problem.  She had been in and out of it several times and repeatedly entered the password.  Had she set it up and never used it, I could believe she'd forgotten what it was.  But it's just not very likely that she used it over and over, even wrote it down, and then repeatedly entered it incorrectly the next day.

The fact that it's not a foolproof feature is fine.  The user is only wanting to protect her document against ... well, fools!  The people she's sending it to are only requested to add information and that may be all they're capable of.  They have no reason to try to remove the restrictions.
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Accepted Solution

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GrahamSkan earned 125 total points
ID: 35109595
I don't believe that the feature is usually unstable. In fact this is the first question that I have seen about that particular problem.

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Author Comment

by:QBUser
ID: 35109994
Good enough.  I did further searching and there's not even one mention of this ever happening, which implies at least that it's not a known - or unknown - bug of any kind.

I've advised the user to do a bit of cleanup on her document and then reapply the password.  If it happens again, we can investigate further and also easily remove the protection so she doesn't effectively lose her document.
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Author Closing Comment

by:QBUser
ID: 35215862
Sometimes no answer is the only answer needed!
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