Authentica Takes on Microsoft

By Dennis Fisher  |  Posted 2004-02-16

When Microsoft Corp. announced its intention to get into the digital rights management market, many industry observers —even some DRM vendors—figured that plan signaled the end of many independent DRM companies hopes.

But one vendor, Authentica Inc., is going after Microsoft with its new Secure Office solution. The system uses strong encryption and user-defined access rights to control when the document can be accessed and what actions users can take with the content.

The company has had, for several years, a similar solution available for secure e-mail, which is used widely in the U.S. intelligence community. But extending the technologys reach to all Microsoft Office content pits the solution squarely against Microsofts Rights Management Server.

When a user wants to distribute an Office document, Secure Office encrypts the file and presents the user with several options for defining recipients and their access rights to the document.

The creator can define the dates or times between which the document is readable, whether recipients can print or forward it or whether they can cut and paste selected passages. Once the documents expiration date passes, all encryption keys for the document are destroyed and can never be retrieved.

This means that copies on backup tapes or on users home machines are rendered useless as well.

The system includes protection against people using the Print Scrn key or so-called screen-scraping software that pulls all the data off a users screen.

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"We know this isnt absolutely guaranteed security, but, boy, does it raise the bar by a lot," said John Bruce, CEO of Authentica, based in Waltham, Mass.

Secure Office also comes with a feature that provides a continuous audit trail of every document and can show down to the page level which recipients have viewed what content.

Secure Office is due next month; pricing starts at $50,000.

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