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When I turn on the Mac firewall I get prompted to allow the MS office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) to accept incoming connections. Why is this, and is it safe to allow it ?

I'm running Mac OS 10.7.2

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While cruising through my System Prefs (Mac) I noticed that my Firewall was off, has been for 3 years, I guess. I set it to on and upon opening an Excel SS doc.(Office for Mac 2008)got a Microsoft message about incoming network connections; advising that denying them may limit the application's behaviour (the application I bought and paid for). Going back into System Prefs while the document is still open and the message is still displayed, and turning the Firewall protection off and then right on again gets rid of the message, and I have not so far experienced any misbehaviour by the applicat –  user18096 Feb 1 '12 at 23:33
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2 Answers

I can't speak for Office 2011 because it requires you to activate your serial number with Microsoft, but in Office 2008, Office 2004 and Offive v.X, the incoming network connection is part of Microsoft's anti-piracy efforts. Since each copy of Office is activated with a unique product key, Office products open an incoming network connection and listen for connections from other instances of Microsoft Office on the network. When connections are established, the two instances of Office will trade product keys and make sure they are not the same. If they are the same, then one user is forced to close their copy of Office.

I recommend instructing your firewall NOT to allow Office to accept inbound network connections.

Here's a link to Macworld that speaks about this 'feature':

http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20020406142423494

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Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/etc. and QuarkXPress used to do this as well. –  Roy Tinker Nov 22 '11 at 17:34
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I can't comfirm if it specifically is the anti-piracy check causing this, but I upvoted because I do believe by default you should disallow all incoming connections except the services you trust and explicitely want to be available from the outside. –  Gerry Nov 23 '11 at 10:06
    
Please do not vote on a 'belief'. Use references to support your comments. Thank you. –  Sheldon Nov 23 '11 at 10:50
    
@Sheldon he's right. If you don't know what it's for or why it's required, deny it. That's safe computing practices. –  Josh Nov 27 '11 at 17:30
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I would add, that a lot of the Ms-Office documentation is online. It might has something to do with that.

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This doesn't really explain why MS-Office needs to accept incoming connections (which are triggered from outside). Accessing online documentation requires an outgoing connection. –  patrix Nov 22 '11 at 18:21
    
Could be possible, documentation is updated from the exterior. But still the anti-piracy seems to be the most plausible answer indeed. –  Zenklys Nov 22 '11 at 19:26
    
And how should MS know where to push new documentation? If an update is necessary, it will be triggered by MS Office contacting a Microsoft server and querying for a new version. –  patrix Nov 22 '11 at 19:32
    
I think you are understanding it wrong. Incoming connections can mean, Microsoft send us a stream of data. Which might be an update/documentation or whatever. Incoming connections does not mean, suddenly out of nowhere a microsoft server tries to access your mac. –  Zenklys Nov 23 '11 at 9:39
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@Zenklys, no, incoming connections means the connection was initiated from outside. An update request is initiated locally (even though that might be done in the background, and so the request is not very visible), at which point Microsoft's servers might be responding with an update download. Because it's initiated locally, it is an outgoing connection. –  Gerry Nov 23 '11 at 10:00
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