Wednesday Sep 03, 2008

Oracle IRM 10gR3 PR4 release

Wow, another release of our Oracle IRM technology this year! This isn't as significant as the previous version but it has some cool new features. You can upgrade your existing Oracle IRM Desktop to this latest release for free by clicking on the "free download" button in the resources section on the right hand side of this page. This release includes functionality available in the IRM Desktop, the desktop software which authenticates and applies your rights to sealed content. Some of the new headline features are:

 

Support for Oracle UCM check-out and open


More features added to the Oracle UCM - IRM integration, allowing for an ever simpler user experience. We are continuously working on bringing tighter integration with Oracle's content management system.

 

 

Support for sealed CSV (Comma Separated Variable) files in Microsoft Excel


We are extending our format support based on requests from customers. CSV is a common format that is exported from applications, applications which Oracle IRM is being integrated with more and more.

 

One feature of this new format is worthy of going into extra detail. When using native CSV files, Excel performs "column auto-conversion" which may be undesirable. For example, suppose you have a CSV file containing the data 


000023,"Acme Co"
000067, "ABC"
000190, "Bananas R Us" 

Then Excel will auto-convert the first column and remove the leading zeroes ie. 23,67,190. Even enclosing the numeric value in double quotes and prepending with spaces doesn't work - Excel will auto-convert them away. The only solution available is to wrap the numbers in ="<number>" i.e to treat the number as a formula.

 

 

To get round this problem sealed CSV content is loaded different to native CSV. Each column of data is treated as text and data is not auto-converted. There is a registry setting which can be used to override the way Excel loads sealed CSV. This is located at 



HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\SealedMedia\Unsealer\sealedmedia.unsealer.csv.open  


It takes three possible string values:

 

 

0 = treat all sealed CSV in the same way as native CSV

 

 

1 = (DEFAULT) when opening sealed CSV treat EACH column as text i.e do not auto-convert each column. This option ensures that any "save unsealed" content is a faithful copy of the original CSV file.

 

 

2 = read the first line of the CSV file. If it contains the string "xlTextFormat" then the file is opened using method 1 else it is opened using method 0. This is effectively a hybrid of the first two options.

 

 

Support for Adobe Reader 9


We continue to support the widest array of platforms and now add Acrobat version 9.

 

Of course we are continuing to work hard on the 11g release which is going to be the biggest step forward for any IRM technology today. Watch this space!

More detail can be found in the release notes.

Thursday Aug 14, 2008

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.

sealed_excel_forecast.gif
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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