Spreadsheet Audits: A Security Liability


When Excel first emerged, it was nothing short of revolutionary for all professionals, and safety professionals adopted it because of the improved efficiency over paper-based auditing. The digital world, however, has evolved. Hackers and cybersecurity threats loom larger than ever, and what was once an indispensable auditing tool can now be a significant liability. 

It’s time for another evolution, moving beyond spreadsheets to more secure alternatives that offer greater efficiency and value. In this blog, we explore the pressing risks facing organizations that continue to use spreadsheets for safety and compliance audits and assessments. 

Macros: A Double-Edged Sword 

The crux of the issue lies in the use of macros within Excel. These powerful tools, designed to automate repetitive tasks, can also serve as trojan horses for malicious actors. Macros can be manipulated to execute harmful code without the user’s knowledge, turning a routine audit into a gateway for cyber threats. This vulnerability is not just a theoretical risk; it’s a documented reality. Sources like the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and TechRepublic have highlighted the inherent dangers associated with macros in Excel, underscoring the urgent need for organizations to reassess their audit tools. 

For health and safety associations, the stakes are particularly high. The sensitive data handled during audits makes them a prime target for cyber-attacks. A compromised Excel audit can lead to a domino effect of events, putting not only the organization’s data at risk, but also damaging reputation and potentially endangering compliance with regulations. 

The Reality of Excel’s Security Shortcomings 

It’s crucial to understand that while Excel has security features, they often fall short of protecting against sophisticated attacks. Even Microsoft’s own support articles admit that security breaches associated with macros remain a concern after 30 years. Despite efforts to block malicious macros, attackers continually find new ways to bypass protections, making it clear that traditional spreadsheets are no longer fit for the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. 

A Call to Evolve Beyond Spreadsheets 

The message is clear: clinging to outdated tools like macro-enabled spreadsheets for critical functions such as safety and compliance audits is a risk that organizations can no longer afford. The evolution from paper to digital was a significant step forward for auditing, but it’s time to take the next leap… 

Unlike spreadsheets, AuditSoft is designed with security and privacy at its core and is available in the trusted Microsoft App Store. Transitioning to dedicated audit software like AuditSoft will reduce security risks, and better meet the needs of health and safety professionals in their pursuit for continuous improvement in workplace safety.

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