Microsoft fixes Office 2003 document lockout bug

Unpatched Rights Management Services will prevent even authorized users from reading protected documents

Microsoft has fixed a problem in Office 2003 that prevented the software from opening documents saved using its access control technology.

The company warned late Friday that Office 2003 would not be able to open documents that had been protected with its Rights Management Services (RMS) beyond that day until Microsoft issued an update, even if users were authorized to open the document.

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Users also could not save documents with RMS, which is used to prevent sensitive documents from being opened by unauthorized users, among other functions.

The problem was caused by the expiration of an Information Rights Management (IRM) certificate. On Saturday, Microsoft released a hotfix, it wrote on its Office Sustained Engineering Team blog.

The problem affects Word 2003, Word 2003 Viewer, Excel 2003, Excel 2003 Viewer, PowerPoint 2003 and Outlook 2003. Office 2007 is not affected and neither is the Office 2010 beta, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

If the hotfix is not applied, users will see the warning: "Unexpected error occurred. Please try again later or contact your system administrator."

The problem was first reported by Technologizer blog.

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