Document protection from two perspectives

This month the focus is on protecting documents. We approached the problem from two directions: hiding the contents of the document and managing what a user can do with the document. The first we solve with encryption. The solution to the second is digital rights management or "DRM."

Encryption is the first choice when we want to control access to the contents of a document, whether the document is a spreadsheet, Word document or email transiting the internet.

The products we looked at this month are largely what we usually think of as strong encryption. How these products are applied differs from product to product. Of course, the ease with which the encryption applications are administered is, likewise, important.

DRM is a completely different situation. There are those who take the position that DRM is a Draconian solution to a trivial problem. Often DRM products tie ownership of a piece of intellectual property to copyrights or licensing.

What ties these two apparently disparate products together is that they both seek to protect what is ours, whether private or not, from misuse. Whether that misuse is accessing confidential information without authorization, or abusing the ownership of intellectual property, is less relevant for the purpose of our testing than the efficacy of the solution to the problem it attempts to solve. To that end, we found that there are far more encryption products than there are DRM products.

However, we also found that the encryption products were clearly encryption products, while some of the DRM products we received were not, in our view, DRM products at all. When you look at these types of products for your organization, we expect that you will find the same thing. So, our reviewers have sought to help clarify the landscape for you.

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