Researchers have discovered a "highly critical" security flaw in newly released Office 2007, despite Microsoft's efforts to deliver its most secure version yet of the productivity software.
The consumer version of Office 2007, which launched only four weeks ago, is designed to withstand higher scrutiny by malicious code writers, as Microsoft subjected the software to code auditors as part of its security development lifecycle.
But researchers at eEye Digital Security found a file format vulnerability in Microsoft Office Publisher 2007, which could be exploited to let an outsider run code on a compromised PC.
"We were surprised we could find a flaw so quickly (after Office 2007 launched) and one that was part of their core products," said Ross Brown, eEye's chief executive.
An attacker could create a malicious publisher file, he said. Once the recipient opens the file, he or she could find the system infected and susceptible to a remote attack.
Researchers at eEye used a standard process of code auditing in discovering the vulnerabilities, Brown added. He noted that Microsoft either did not do a "good job" with its code auditing, or it may not have had enough people working on such a task.
Microsoft, meanwhile, said it is investigating eEye's report of a possible vulnerability in Publisher 2007 and will provide users with additional guidance if necessary.
Executives at the software giant have recently said they expect security challenges to keep emerging, as an increasing number of devices connect to the Internet.
No public exploits have been reported in circulation for Publisher 2007 and, given Office 2007's recent release, the flaw may hold little attraction for attackers who may wish to concentrate on software that is in greater distribution, eEye said.