When confidential and sensitive documents are frequently being exchanged back and forth between an organization and its business partners, securing the documents which are sent via email becomes crucial. This gives rise to external document control.
External document control is strictly defined as a means for keeping tabs on the documents that belong to another party (external party) or for controlling in-house documents that are sent beyond your organization boundaries.
This article discusses how to secure documents that are created under your control but sent outside your organization where you no longer have control over them.
Usually, no security protocols are adhered to in keeping an external document safe. So, whether document encryption has been applied or not, once the recipient has received your document, they can use it in any way they choose as it is beyond the immediate control of your organization.
This involves a lot of risks which makes it all the more necessary for the creator of the document to safeguard the document and maintain its integrity by applying controls to the document that persist no matter where it resides. The main reason for doing so is to prevent others from altering the document and perhaps misrepresenting its content. Other additional controls providing Digital Rights Management (DRM) may be necessary to provide the appropriate external document control.
Yet, external document control is quite complicated when it comes to applying it to a document. If a document is prepared by using customary tools and services (including a word processing package, a web page creation tool, a presentation package and a picture creating tool), the tools do not provide any control at all and allow the user to edit the document’s content.
So, to implement external document control, a medium must be used so that the recipient of the controlled document is unable to use normal tools, such as those mentioned above, to edit the content. This will curb the recipient from tampering with the document to a large extent.
But, external document control which does not rely on a program quite separate from the one that created the document is not likely to work. Of course, the format of the file in which the document is sent must also not allow ready processing of the content. You cannot have external document control if the document can be easily accessed and read.
As a result, external document protection requires encryption which ensures that security controls cannot easily be breached. But encryption only protects documents at rest or in transit. It does not stop users passing encrypted documents to others (along with the decryption key) or control what users can do with them.
One of the document security solutions that can be used for external document control is DRM software. Document DRM software uses DRM controls to prevent unauthorized use and misuse of external documents. Along with encryption, it applies document controls to prevent sharing, editing, printing, screen grabbing, etc. and enables you to enforce expiry dates and revoke documents.
If you implement a document DRM solution, it will ensure that documents you send to external parties will maintain complete confidentiality and total integrity of the content, thereby retaining total altering and editing rights only for the creator of the content.