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What is Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM)? 

Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) sometimes referred to as Information Rights Management (IRM) is a core-data-centric technology that offers uninterrupted protection to unstructured data.

It protects sensitive information/data everywhere by managing and enforcing access and usage rights to the information throughout its lifecycle, no matter where the information is distributed.

EDRM effectively protects data from thefts, misuse, or inadvertent disclosure, and it mitigates the regulatory risk of collaboration and information exchange with users, partners, and vendors. 

EDRM controls how employees and partners use sensitive information. EDRM aims to manage rights to digital intellectual property and help organizations protect sensitive information from unauthorized use. 

It provides information owners the capability to specify fine-grained rights such as view, copy and edit with specific files that need to be protected and to enforce these rights at the time when the files are accessed. 

Once the rights are specified, they can travel with the protected files together and stay effective until the information owner or privileged users change them. EDRM is successful when it is combined with data classification and is integrated with file repositories and business applications.

A typical Digital Rights Management (DRM) System Architecture:

Most DRM systems consist of three major components: 

  1. The content server 
  2. The license server 
  3. The DRM client 

The content server– The main functionality of the content server is to store the protected content files in a content repository, which is essentially a file server or a database system. The content in the repository is usually not in the proper format for distribution. 

DRM System Architecture

Figure 1: A typical DRM System Architecture

It is converted into the proper format on demand in response to the user’s request. Yet another function of the content server is to prepare the content package when the user accesses a particular piece of sensitive information. 

This includes encrypting and packaging the sensitive content and related metadata and creating the right specifications for the content. A DRM packager is responsible for completing these tasks. The resultant package contains the encrypted content metadata, which is a unique identification number for tracking the package. 

License Server – This contains all information about the rights specifications, identification of the content to which the rights apply, and the identity of the user or device who wants to access the content. 

A user has to get a license before he/she can access a particular piece of information. These licenses are generated by the license generator residing on the license server. The right specifications and the keys are stored in separate databases on the license server. In addition, the license server also stores user identification such as name, biometric information, or digital certificate.

DRM Client – This contains a controller that receives the user’s request, communicates with the license server, and the rendering applications that decode and render the content in the supported format. The controller can either be a standalone software program or a simple module residing within the rendering application. The main responsibility of the DRM client is:

  1. Receive the user’s request to exercise rights on the contents package.
  2. Collect user identity information and apply for a license from the license server.
  3. Retrieve encryption keys from the license.
  4. Decrypt the content for the rendering application.

How content is rendered:

A DRM user using standard system file commands, or rendering requests obtains a content package from the content server.  The DRM client is designed in such a way that the DRM controller can always be activated in response to such a request. 

Once it is activated, the DRM controller collects necessary information to apply for a license which includes the user’s identity information, the content identifier in the content package, and the rights the user needs to exercise. 

The collected information from the client-side is then sent to the license server for a license. The license generator authenticates the user’s identity in the identities database and uses the identifier to look up rights specifications for the content. 

For a legal user request, it creates a license containing rights specification, client information, and the encryption key and then sends the license back to the DRM controller. The encryption key is used to decrypt the content and is normally encrypted again in the license by the user’s public key. Finally, the DRM controller on the client-side decrypts the content and releases it to the rendering application, whose operations can be restricted by the rights specification in the license. 

EDRM Principles

Any EDRM system should consider the following principles:

  1. Secure content by distributing encrypted files or files’ metadata that links to related files on a protected repository.
  2. Control and audit access to protected content, including view, edit, export, save, print, email, copy and paste, screen capture, and even rights modification.
  3. Introduce minimum changes to enterprise business processes and existing user applications.
  4. Utilize existing account management and authentication mechanisms as much as possible.
  5. Secure content rendering and rights enforcement.
  6. Secure client software with tamper-resistant techniques.
  7. Watermark sensitivity content to trace its distribution process.
  8. Enable off-line access and dynamic rights update.
  9. Enable external users like business partners to access rights-protected content.
  10. Adopt standard expression languages to enable interoperability among different DRM systems.
  11. Secure the license server or policy server against attack or system failure.

Six Reasons why EDRM matters for Data-centric Security

  1. Data-centric security is the strategic choice in modern digital workspace because security is provided at the data level even for uncontrolled structures.
  2. It offers fine-grained usage control for supported applications.
  3. It offers persistent protection wherever the document is
  4. Provides automated protection whenever data is extracted or downloaded from repositories and business applications such as PLM, ERP, CRM, reflecting access control in the original application.
  5. Agile policies that can be modified even after sharing the document.
  6. Provides an audit trail of document usage.

ALSO READ: Six Reasons why EDRM matters for Data-centric Security

EDRM vs DLP – Why EDRM outperforms DLP when it comes to data security?

Traditionally data security strategy revolved around the strategy of controlling the IT infrastructure. This included networks, devices, and managing access to enterprise applications and IT or cloud services. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) was the data-centric security approach that was invariably used to protect data accessed by internal users on managed services and devices.

However, this isn’t effective when files are shared externally across businesses.  During such collaboration, there is no control over the devices, networks, and applications and the traditional paradigm of controlling the full technology stack fails.

This is because either the data is locked and protected much tighter leading to lower productivity, or the controls are relaxed leading to data being landed in unauthorized and unapproved storage sites or being in the hands of unauthorized users. 

These two issues are present when the data-centric strategy is DLP because the core concept behind DLP is to block sensitive data from leaving the controlled or protected environment. 

Unlike DLP, Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) data-centric technology overcomes these two issues by focusing on some of the aspects that can be controlled. It protects data irrespective of its storage location, device, and application.

While DLP prevents data leakage at a network or device level, EDRM protects data beyond the edge, and if applied at creation, can cover the entire information life cycle. 

ALSO READWhy Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) has an edge over Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Conclusion:

Microsoft Enterprise Digital Rights Management solution is the most widely popular solution available in the market today. Microsoft’s security business made $10 billion in 2020 growing 40% YoY. This is because their approach to security is very unique.

They tackle security from all angles – outside-in and inside-out. From simple easy data classification to complex embedded labels and permissions, Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) enhances data protection, no matter where it is stored or who it is shared with. 

With MIP, it is easy to configure policies to classify, label, and protect data based on its sensitivity. This process is automated but it lets you track activities on shared data, and also revoke access when needed. 

Being a strategic partner of Microsoft and SAP, SECUDE is the only solution provider with the capabilities to extend MIP to SAP, PLM, and CAD environments. 

SECUDE’s HALOCORE solution takes over where SAP currently does not – at the point of data egress. It also provides end-to-end protection of sensitive SAP data exports throughout their lifecycle. 

Similarly, HALOACAD extends the security templates provided by MIP to the complete lifecycle of CAD & PLM documents.

ALSO READCAD and EDRM – A challenge but a must for digital process chains

To learn more about how SECUDE can help you implement EDRM for your critical data in a MIP environment do write to us at 

References:

1. Enterprise Digital Rights Management: Solutions against Information Theft by Insiders – Yang Yu Tzi-cker Chiueh

 

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