Need info on MS Word password protection / encryption

Mark used Ask the Experts™
I'm doing some research on securing Word documents and trying to determine if documents are encrypted. First question, is password protection and encryption the same thing in MS Word?

How secure is MS Word encryption/PW protection? I've heard it was rather easy to crack, but I've nothing other than anecdotal commentary to support this assertion.

I've posted 2 images. One claims to be a "Protected" document. I know this document to be malware. Is the message the document displays when opened a Microsoft thing or something the perpetrator created? The other image is a "normal" dialog for a password protected document.

Finally, is there a way to examine the contents of MS Word encrypted/PW documents to determine if they are encrypted?

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I've discovered that the document giving that "Protected" message isn't really protected at all. The word/document.xml component of the archive is readily extractable and readable. The "Protected" message is bogus and must not be a Microsoft thing.
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Distinguished Expert 2018
The encryption of newer office versions (last 10 years) is good. please inform yourself at
"is there a way to examine the contents of MS Word encrypted/PW documents to determine if they are encrypted?" - if they were, a password would be requested on opening.


Thanks McKnife, I believe that's exactly what I'm looking for. One point of confusion, your link says,
Microsoft Office applications offer the use of two main groups of passwords that can be set to a document depending on whether they encrypt a password-protected document or not.

Passwords that do not encrypt a password-protected document have different security level features for each of Microsoft Office applications as mentioned below.
This makes it sound like there is a choice to encrypt OR password protect. When I password protect an Office doc, I am not presented any choice, just the opportunity to enter a password. Does it always encrypt?
Distinguished Expert 2018

Office versions 2007 and newer do encrypt. So unless you are using an old, unsupported version (2003 or earlier), you don't need to worry.

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