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Hardening Microsoft Office 2013

This publication provides guidance on how to securely configure Microsoft Office 2013.

First published 2015; Latest version April 2019


Workstations are often targeted by adversaries using malicious web pages, malicious email attachments and removable media with malicious content in an attempt to extract sensitive information. Hardening applications on workstations is an important part of reducing this risk.

This document provides guidance on hardening commonly targeted Microsoft Office 2013 applications – specifically Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Word. Before implementing the recommendations in this document, testing should be undertaken to ensure the potential for unintended negative impacts on business processes is reduced as much as possible.

This document is intended for information technology and information security professionals within organisations looking to undertake risk assessments or vulnerability assessments as well as those wishing to develop a hardened standard operating environment for workstations.

The Group Policy Administrative Templates for Microsoft Office 2013 referenced in this document can be obtained from Microsoft. Once downloaded, the ADMX and associated ADML files can be placed in %SystemDrive%\Windows\SYSVOL\domain\Policies\PolicyDefinitions on the Domain Controller and they will automatically be loaded in the Group Policy Management Editor. As Group Policy Administrative Templates for Microsoft Office are periodically updated by Microsoft, care should be taken to ensure the latest version is always used.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • High priorities
    • Attack Surface Reduction
    • Latest version
    • Macros
    • Patching
  • Medium priorities
    • ActiveX
    • Add-ins
    • Extension hardening
    • File type blocking
    • Hidden markup
    • Office file validation
    • Protected view
    • Trusted documents
  • Low priorities
    • Reporting information

Further information

The Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM) assists in the protection of information that is processed, stored or communicated by organisations' systems.

The Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents complement the advice in the ISM.

Contact details

Organisations or individuals with questions regarding this advice can contact the ACSC by emailing or calling 1300 CYBER1 (1300 292 371).

April 30th, 2019