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Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password?

This is a discussion on Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password? within the Excel Questions forums, part of the Question Forums category; This very strange occurance happened to me just last week and a co-worker the other day. If someone has had ...

  1. #1
    TPD
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    Default Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password?

    This very strange occurance happened to me just last week and a co-worker the other day. If someone has had experience with htis or has an idea what the underlying cause is, I would truly be appreciative of their expertise in this matter.

    I created an Excel spreadsheet about 1 year ago and have continued to make updates to it every month. As always, I password protect the document as I'm the sole owner of this form within our huge corporation. I have never lost sight of the file from my drive and only protected copies get distributed. Just last week when making an update to the form, I could not unlock it with my password. I tried several times with many variations figuring I was having an Aspartame moment of memory loss.

    As it turned out, I downloaded a password cracker trial application that promptly and easily found the password to unlock it. It was some funky decrypted text and numbers about 9 characters long. I didn't think this could be correct, but I tried it anyway and sure enough it unlocked it!!!! How can this happen? How could the password change on its own?

    I resaved it again with my old standby password and re-opened it and it seems to be fine again retaining the correct password.

    Dismissing it as a fluke, I received a call from a co-worker just the other day in a complete panic because a form that he created also locked him out of his own file! I promptly used the password cracker app and sure enough it detected a password (not decrypted) that made no sense to the guy, but it did unlock the protection. What's going on? No viruses appear in virus checks.

    I'm running an XP Operating System and Office XP.

    He is not,...he is running 2K.

    Any help would help.


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    Todd P. Dolce
    Todd P. Dolce

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    Board Regular santeria's Avatar
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    Is your drive local or Network?
    Does your system have anykind of remote access software to workstations?

    Are you aware of any admin staff in IT who have decryption/encryption software of any kind?

    "Don't Ruin an Apology with an Excuse"...

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    TPD
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    We (I) have network access, but this file is on my local drive. It is never stored on the network drive.

    I make a change, I send it to Administration,..they post it online on the intranet for the sales team to use worldwide. If they need a change, they tell me in e-mail. I take my original file on my local drive, make the change and re-submit as above.

    Very strange.

    TD
    Todd P. Dolce

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    Board Regular santeria's Avatar
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    Do you copy the info sent to an email? Or do you send a Copy of the original file?

    If the Excel file "Spontaneously" changes the password, but not the content, then it is either a manual or a remote change, ... thats what I have seen.

    Remote desktop access is common, but some companies don't advertise it's presence, unless the policy is to have local software that "permits" access to a persons' workstation.

    I have seen badly run protection and test software do some weird things.
    In some cases, if it is caused by an admin not knowing what they are doing, they only way to totally protect the file is to have a backup separate from your PC.
    If you have had it regularly change... I would test it by backing up youyr file to a thumb drive, put the thumb drive in a secure place, and then see what happens.

    Depending on your network, you should be able to log access to your PC that occurs remotely.


    There are other possibilities, but it pre-supposes things I have no info on.

    "Don't Ruin an Apology with an Excuse"...

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    TPD
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    Do you copy the info sent to an email? Or do you send a Copy of the original file?

    I send a copy of the entire original file with whatever changes I made. I simply change the file name to ScreeningFormV5, or V6, or V7 and so on.

    If the Excel file "Spontaneously" changes the password, but not the content, then it is either a manual or a remote change, ... thats what I have seen.

    The content remained unchanged. This is the first time that this has happened. It has not happened again since. I had a system crash and lockup about a month ago as well which prompted them to format my drive. Keep in mind that the drive they formatted was not the drive I had the form on (Thank God) I have two drives (both local) a C and D. Programs run on C and all files reside on D.

    At that time, they upgraded the OS to XP from 2000, but I re-installed the Office XP apps myself. I ran XP Office on my 2000 as well so that never changed. I thought perhaps that this incident may have caused the problem in some freaky way, but my co-worker never had any upgrades, crashes or issues.

    Anyway,..I guess I will back it up as you stated and that should solve it.

    Our tech people do have remote access to our systems and have exercised that ability on several occasions for upgrades, security apps, patches and the likes. (but keep in mind we have 500,000 employees) the thought of someone wanting to screw with a file from a tiny spec as I am in the grand scope of things seems highly unlikely.

    You do bring up good points though.
    Todd P. Dolce

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    Board Regular santeria's Avatar
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    I was just asking standard tech questions...
    Bear in mind I have done Both Phone and In person support since 1994.
    Whilst I have done some administration work at the Network level... some of the geniuses who have been official administrators have done really insane things totally accidentally... I'm not claiming a specific attack on your work, just a randomn act of idiocy.

    I would say I am a Backup freak. If you have Mission Critical Docs, files, images etc... I would say Backup, and then Backup the Backup.
    I acquired that trait from experience.
    If you have a relatively small amount of material that needs to be totally secure, give a Thumb drive a go. They have 128 Meg, 256, and higher ( I am told), all the same size of a thumb ( Literally)... and so long as you can stick that into a USB port, and then Back up the same data to a CD ( my double backup syndrome) , thats as much as I can suggest.

    Overall, I can say that the weirdest things can cause things to change.

    "Don't Ruin an Apology with an Excuse"...

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    TPD
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    Default Re: Excel locked me out of my own file!? Changed my password

    Back up it is!!

    Very strange incident, but hopefully those crazy dudes at tech services won't get in the middle of things again.
    Todd P. Dolce

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    A few remarks:

    1) Given the frankly crap nature of excel security, it should come as no suprise that many password strings have the same hash value, so one lock = many keys as far as sheet protection is concerned. (to test, protect a sheet with 'xz' - unprotect it with 'bw'). The fact that a password hack returned an 'unknown' password does not necessarily mean that the password has changed.

    2) Can't remember where the hash is stored, but it's possible that it became corrupted?

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