Microsoft has provided it’s Rights Management System (RMS) technology for many years now. This provides the means to protect Office documents from in appropriate use and distribution of information, helping organisations protect their information from careless handling or malicious disclosure to third parties. The Microsoft offering has format and functional gaps that to date other vendors have filled; these include GigaTrust, Watchful, and Secure Islands. In a major move Microsoft have now acquired Secure Islands. This is a significant move confirming Microsoft’s commitment to providing technology to secure unstructured business documents from theft and misuse, and confirms the market sector including other players which provide Information Rights Management capabilities. Secure Islands add a layer to RMS to allow policy based classification and protection, and allows protection of additional formats and applications. So this is a logical extension to Microsofts offering. But where does this leave other rights management technologies?
RMS ensures that protected documents are encrypted and require authenticated access to consume. Documents can be accessed, subject to specific rights including the ability to edit, use the clipboard, print etc. Microsoft now also provide a cloud based RMS in Azure, as well as on premise deployments. Other offerings are worth considering as they are different and have other capabilities which should also be considered. Every organisations is different and has different sensitivities and ways of working. Microsoft has the concept of a superuser which can decrypted any document. This is useful for some allowing legal compliance. For others this is an unacceptable risk, and needs to be managed more closely. Microsoft currently cannot allow documents to be edited with the use of the clipboard (cut, copy and paste) without also opening the door to copying whole documents in an unprotected form. For many this effectively makes the edit capability either unusable or insecure. Either you can copy a whole document into an unprotected one, or you can’t even copy a paragraph from one place on a page to another.
Other providers on the other hand including FileSecure from Seclore have close control of the clipboard, allowing business users to work more effectively allowing the use of the clipboard while remaining secure; taking account of the rights have over the document they are pasting from and the document they are pasting to. FileSecure is also able to control protect from screen grabbing technologies other than Microsofts own print screen function. Screen protection isn’t cast iron as anyone these days has a camera in their pocket, but if they know the tools on the desktop are blocked and they reach for their camera then they know they are breaching company policy and risking dismissal. FileSecure can also detect whether documents are being opened in virtual machines or screen sharing technologies such as WebEx, GotoMeeting etc. and allow or deny opening of the documents depending on the information being shared and who is doing it. It is useful to share documents via WebEx, but it if persistently protected with a rights management technology it is actually more secure to send you recipients the whole document. Via collaboration tools its easy to screen capture every page of a slide show completely unbeknownst to the presenter.
Microsoft’s purchase of Secure Islands in November allows better management of rights through centralised control. For some this is great where centralised policy management is sufficient. However, for many businesses rights management solutions is used to allow IT to delegate responsibility to the business units who know far better who should have access to what. Secure Islands central approach does not lend itself easily to this delegation of responsibility. Other solutions including FileSecure, RightsWatch and WatchDox do allow rules to be defined by business users in a delegated fashion allowing finer and more responsive control.
So in reality in spite of the purchase of Secure Islands by Microsoft the world hasn’t really changed, at least not yet or any time soon. Each solution has it’s merits and any business considering a rights management solution should look at the functional capabilities available, whether that is meaningful document collaboration instant document revocation or delegated management, and then determine which one provides the best fit for the way they operate than the perceived threads being mitigated. All the vendors continually developing their offerings so what was best three years ago, or less, may not be best now. Usability is constantly improving so if you’ve looked at rights management solutions in the past now is a good time to look again.
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