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Preventing Data Spills 101: Finding the ‘Monsters’ in Your Container Files

data spills for container files

A poltergeist that poaches your data. 

A goblin that gains access to your files. 

A vampire that sucks the life out of your hard drive.  

Sound scary? They’re not. You’d see these guys coming from a mile away.

The biggest threats to your data are the monsters that you can’t see. The hidden monsters that could be lurking in your documents, spreadsheets, or other container files right now.

What Are “Container Files”?

“Containers” are file formats that offer the flexibility to package other formats. They provide the advantage of bundling many types of data in one convenient package that is easy to store, display, and transmit between locations.

Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) are some of the most common containers used today. Office formats are immensely powerful, but they can contain hidden monsters that cause data spills to happen, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Hidden Monsters  You Should be Afraid Of

Examples of monsters that could be hiding in a container file include the following (among others):

  • Image content that exists outside of a cropped, viewable image in the document. (The picture can be expanded to show the hidden parts.)
  • Text that is written in the same color as the background that it appears on, e.g., white text on a white background.
  • Text that is written using a “Hidden” font style that makes the text disappear until the “Hidden” effect is turned off.
  • Comments and edits entered using “Track Changes” that can be displayed using the “All Markup” option.
  • Hidden rows, columns, and worksheets in Excel.
  • Off-slide content and presentation notes in PowerPoint.
  • Author and owner information stored in the document properties.

How Can You Tame the Monsters Hiding in Office Documents? 

It’s quite simple, actually, and all you need is access to Microsoft Office (version 2007 or newer). Open your container file, and click “File,” “Info,” and “Check for Issues.” That will take you to the Document Inspector.

Does your document contain unwanted content? You can clean it simply by clicking “Remove.” Learn more about preventing data spills with Document Inspector.

Remember, the “monsters” that cause data spills are not going to yell, jump up and down, or otherwise get your attention. They’re going to do the most damage by being nearly invisible. With Office Document Inspector, you have a way to tame the “monsters” before they get out.

— Joseph Karolchik, President



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