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  1. #1
    4 Star Lounger pccoyle's Avatar
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    Secure Excel Model (2000)

    You may recall my recent postings re distributing secure excel models to our customers. I have been experimenting with Visual Baler which may be the answer.
    Now, I may be out of line with this request, please tell me if this is so.
    I have attached a 'munged' example of a basic formulation spreadsheet. What we plan to distribute is the "secure" .exe where the chemical price cells next to those in blue are changed by the customer, who then sees the effect on their current sell price.
    My request is to find if anyone is interested is receiving the "secure" mode, which consists of an .exe, .hlp and a number of DLL's. Then to try and crack the application to discover the hidden data that is shown in the attached spreadsheet.
    Paul Coyle
    Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

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    5 Star Lounger jujuraf's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    I downloaded the file and will look at it tomorrow (Tues).

    I'd like to know your opinion of VisualBaler as I was considering it for a product. I contacted the company and they sent me a user's manual and sample code for me to look at. I haven't had a chance to go over it in detail though.

    Thnx, Deb

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    5 Star Lounger jujuraf's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    Hi there.. me again (5 min after I said I wouldn't look at it until Tues - it's now 11:59pm so it's close enough).

    I just now ran your .xls file created by VisualBaler in Excel 2000 and Excel 2002. I was very surprised to see that neither the sheet or the workbook were protected. Did you intend for that to be the case? There is no VBA in this project (at least I didn't see any and Excel didn't prompt me to enable macros - security is set to medium). I was freely able to change any cell (text or formula) I wanted.

    I'm sure in VisualBaler you still have to tell it to protect the sheets/workbook just like Excel, no? yes? Did you attach the wrong workbook?

    Deb <img src=/S/bagged.gif border=0 alt=bagged width=22 height=22>

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    4 Star Lounger pccoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    Hi Deb,
    Thanks for your offer. If you can give me an email address to coyle@vita.co.nz I will send a zipped file and instructions. It is 900K so cannot use this forum.
    The Excel sheet I attached to my posting shows all the cells whereas the "secure" model allows input into two cells only and only shows the result. Pretty clunky at the moment but this is proof of concept at this stage, as I want to see if there is a way whereby the "secure" model can give up the information that is now hidden.
    To date my experience with Visual Baler is a bit sketchy. From the samples included in the application I can see that you can develop quite sophisticated user interfaces. However there hasn't been any recent development and the interface is clunky, i.e. no mouse scrolling. Also you have to save in .wkX format so items such as arrays have to be re-done before saving. However after a bit of fiddling around it was not too hard to achieve the simple result I will be sending you.
    I hope to do more work with VB next week after month end so will have more experience.
    <img src=/S/thankyou.gif border=0 alt=thankyou width=40 height=15> <img src=/S/flags/NewZealand.gif border=0 alt=NewZealand width=30 height=18>
    Paul Coyle
    Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

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    4 Star Lounger pccoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    Hi Deb,
    My mistake in not making it clearer. The sheet I attached was an example of how the original information was structured and set out. This was then intended to be used as a guide for those who offered to crack the Visual Baler model that would follow <img src=/S/cheers.gif border=0 alt=cheers width=30 height=16> <img src=/S/flags/NewZealand.gif border=0 alt=NewZealand width=30 height=18>
    Paul Coyle
    Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

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    5 Star Lounger jujuraf's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    I looked at your sample and thought I'd respond in this forum as opposed to writing you personally as I did to get the file. After seeing what Visual Baler looks like in a real app I'm glad I didn't pursue it further as I was thinking of using it too. <img src=/S/beep.gif border=0 alt=beep width=15 height=15> It was last released as a product quite a few years ago and it definitely shows its age. There were many things about its look and interface that are not up to par with even the minimum GUI standards (even the Window standard copy, paste, undo command keys don't work). There are no tool tips for the icons in the tool bar so you don't know what they do without clicking on them - bad stuff <img src=/S/bummer.gif border=0 alt=bummer width=15 height=15> .

    I wasn't able to break it but then I don't know much about how it works so that hinders the effort. In Excel if you know a bit about VBA then you can probably break the workbook so knowing that VBA exists at all is big help. Visual Baler is a mystery to me so I wouldn't know where to go to start cracking it. I did look at some of the files in a binary editor but that didn't turn up anything than the expected ASCII text for strings. So now I guess it's as secure as any regular .exe program which of course isn't 100% either but much better than Excel files.

    One comment about your sample - you have blue as the cell font for edit-able cells but one of the blue cells is protected. That's confusing to the user so that should be changed.

    If it serves your purpose for your users and you can live with the poor GUI it provides then it's the solution to your problem. I'd be interested to know how your users perceive it and if you plan on using it more in the future.

    Deb <img src=/S/cheers.gif border=0 alt=cheers width=30 height=16>

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    4 Star Lounger pccoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Secure Excel Model (2000)

    Hi Deb,
    Many thanks for your comments and the time you spent on this concept model. Yep, you're right. I was inconsistent with the font colours.
    Macros in Visual Baler use the Lotus format, I have yet to try an Excel VB macro to see if this can access any data. Yesterday I found that two columns that I designated as hidden could be un-hidden by just dragging the border between two columns. That may be a 'feature' or more than likely be due to my unfamiliarity with all the security options. Provided the layout is in "blocks", you can limit the visible area, which I believe will overcome the hidden column problem.
    I will now amend this trial model, then pass it to the director who was requesting this application, then see what feedback comes out of it.
    <img src=/S/cheers.gif border=0 alt=cheers width=30 height=16> <img src=/S/clapping.gif border=0 alt=clapping width=19 height=23> I appreciate your help Deb, many thanks indeed. <img src=/S/fanfare.gif border=0 alt=fanfare width=31 height=23> <img src=/S/thankyou.gif border=0 alt=thankyou width=40 height=15> <img src=/S/flags/NewZealand.gif border=0 alt=NewZealand width=30 height=18>
    Paul Coyle
    Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

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