Securing Excel spreadsheets using Oracle IRM

Since 2002 the Oracle IRM technology has supported persistent control and protection of the common Microsoft Office formats, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In 2008 we released the latest iteration of this mature integration, improving further the end user experience and functionality. Oracle IRM supports these formats when opened in Office 2000 thru to 2007, wider support for IRM documents than Microsoft themselves! For these office formats we provide the following controls:

  • Advanced screen protection. Protecting only the area on the screen where secured content is being displayed.
  • Copy and paste protection. Ensuring that if the user has rights to edit a document, they can only copy and paste information into another secured document.
  • Powerful Office object model protection. Protecting the content inside the Office application from programmatic attack from the Office Macro and Document Object Model.
  • Flexible offline caching. Ensuring that end users are able to use content offline, Oracle IRM transparently updates their rights to information offline whilst making sure changes are also reflected.
  • Dynamic sealed fields. Information about the content and the user can be displayed within the document, like a watermark, such as username, IP address and time of access.
Excel is one of the more feature rich of the formats and this is reflected with the following additional controls:

  • Formula visibility
Allows you to enable or disable the visibility of formulas in Excel workbooks.
  • Interact with cells
Allows you to enter data into unprotected cells of Excel documents, allowing you to protect an entire spreadsheet but allow certain cells to be editable.
  • Excel link support
The ability to display content from one sealed workbook in the cells of another sealed workbook.
  • Annotation
Provides limited edit rights, allowing you to add comments to Excel documents.

So, quite a lot of advanced things you can do when protecting Excel spreadsheets using Oracle IRM! You can experiment with a sealed Excel spreadsheet by registering for an account and downloading the sample sealed Excel file (Pictured right).

The formula feature is very cool. It means all the intellectual property taking the form of formulas in your spreadsheets can be hidden whilst still allowing the end user to view the spreadsheet.

Combine this with the interact right, and you can securely distribute spreadsheets with complex and valuable formulas yet still allow the end user to manipulate unprotected fields. Try it, download the document pictured to the right.

You can change the numbers in the cream colored fields and see how this affects the graph below. Yet you can't see the formulas that generates the numbers in column B. In the past people would convert such sensitive documents to the PDF format which would ensure the formulas were not accessible, yet loosing all the value and functionality of the Excel format.

Excel link support refers to the facility in Microsoft Excel to set up a link between workbooks by copying data (using Edit - Copy) from a cell in one workbook and then pasting it (using Edit - Paste Special) into a cell in the other workbook. Oracle IRM allows such links between workbooks only if both workbooks are sealed to the same context. This is a subtle yet important feature, Oracle focuses as much effort on the end user experience as it does the security, stability and scalability of the technology. Security does also have an impact, Oracle IRM will prevent unauthorized access to data. This means that if a link is created to a sealed workbook from an unsealed one, or if the user of one sealed workbook is not authorized to see the content of a sealed workbook linked to it, the content of a linked cell will be shown as "#REF".

Oracle IRM provides second to none controls over Excel documents. Consider also that this comes with none of the limitations that Microsoft's own IRM solution brings, such as Active Directory dependencies, requirements to upgrade to newer, more expensive versions of Office and lack of back office compatability and scalability. If you want to learn more and use our evaluation service to protect your own Excel documents, contact us.



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Oracle IRM protects and tracks your sensitive information no matter where it goes. It combines business friendly encryption with role based usage rights and auditing.

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