How do you make Office documents self-destruct?


Is it possible to e-mail word, excel or powerpoint files that self-destruct after a set expiry time. Our business uses NDA agreements to manage confidentiality but we feel uncomfortable e-mailing Office documents that contain valuable corporate information. It would be reassuring if we knew they would automatically delete themselves after 3 months.


  • You could possibly use Visual Basic to only permit viewing of information if the system date is before a set date and you could also set it to delete data in a file using date criteria.  However as per the initial post files containing macros are often classified as suspicious and it would have to be set up to force a user to enable macros to view the information - people and IT departments are very suspicious of such files.


  • In a word, Yes.  This is part of the functionality offered by Digital Rights Management (DRM), solutions for which exist within Office also by third parties.
    As a caveat, like many systems, they can be subverted by a determined and competent attacker – preventing DRM content from copying also restricts its utility, for example removing the ability to select, copy, paste, print are commonly found in an attempt to control distribution. However, since for a document to be effective it must be readable in some format, case studies abound where a screen scrape (e.g. simply photographing the screen, taking screenshots, or using CamStudio) has subverted even the tightest restrictions around DRM.
    Cryptographic solutions are frequently part of DRM, however these are complex programmatically and algorithmically, and do not always stand up to competent rigorous analysis (see the wide variety of recovery products produced by ElcomSoft, the various forensic PWCracking facilities,  and so forth). So this is another vector of attack.
    Finally, there is always the Word Of Mouth – having seen a protected document, it is likely that salient facts will remain in the mind of the reader, and these can be repeated outside the planned locus of control implemented by DRM.
    So in a second word or two, ultimately, No.
  • I can set expiry date for a powerpoint plus adding a protection level of not being copied with its transitions and animations. Add to this, that it would be ran on any digital platform with no need for a powerpoint viewer or software. Also, add to it, that it would be html5 responsive.
    For getting a free sample, don't hesitate to contact me :)

  • For MS Excel you can use a VBA module which is protected to run everytime a file is opened - it can check for the current system date and if the system date exceeds the expiry date, delete all cells on all worksheets. I am not sure if these can work on MS Word and Powerpoint since I do not use VBA codes on them.

    The drawback that come to my mind immediately is that if a person known of such protection, he can easily change the system date to before the expiry date and can access the data.