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Two Ways of USB Copy Protection for Office Files

Traditionally, “copy protection” has been used to describe a technology to keep copyright of an audio/video file or software program from unauthorized copying when distributing it to mass customers. The media for distribution has mostly been a CD/DVD, a one-way medium, which is only for playing once the content is stored in it. However, a USB flash drive has also been used for copy-protection media due to high capacity and portability because of the appearance of high-density video files these days. It is possible to read/write to a USB flash drive so that there could be more possibility to implement copy-protection technology and more types of content could be distributed with more varied ways according to different purposes. Recently, Office files such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PPT have also been commonly distributed to share confidential information with coworkers out of the organization as well as employees in the organization. So, copy protection is not only for audio/video file or software program distribution anymore.

Office files that are distributed through a USB flash drive are mostly related to organizational secrets such as manuals and marketing materials so that its security should be more crucial than that of any other content. When it comes to a breach of that kind of content, it doesn’t simply mean just leakage of copyright but might negatively affect overall aspects of business, including the immediate collapse of organizational reputation. Customers feel a big difference according to which copy-protection technology is applied to handle Office files, while they rarely feel the difference even if copy-protection solutions use different technologies to handle audio/video file or software program. Therefore, the solution should be carefully chosen according to the nature of the distributed Office files.

First, most USB copy-protection solutions generally change an Office file into a PDF format file and encrypt it. Then, they make it possible to view the file through their own exclusive viewer. The nature of the PDF format is just like a still image so that the original dynamic features of MS Office, such as “comment” of MS Word, “animation” of MS Presentation and “function” of MS Excel, which are very useful to explain the multilevel meaning of content, are unavailable. According to preset users’ rights, an exclusive viewer enables or disables users’ rights such as copy, print and screen capture. This is the most common type to accomplish copy protection with MS Office file types.

Second, a new type directly controls functions of applications at the OS kernel level for copy protection. A USB flash drive stores the security policy for a user and encrypted files to distribute. When the user puts the USB flash drive into a PC to view the files, an agent is installed on the PC and then it controls the user’s rights according to the security policy saved in the USB flash drive. In this type, all original functions of MS Office can be available, while copy, print, screen capture and network transfer can be controlled according to the security policy. A user can edit, see comments in a Word file, watch PPT animation, move to different sheets and refer to a function in an Excel file. The original dynamic MS Office file without any transformation can be distributed and users can utilize all functions under tight control. The quality of the content could be kept the same as the original so that the contributor doesn’t have to think of additional things to do to distribute anymore.

Secudrive USB Copy Protection is the only solution that adopts the second method. Secudrive USB Copy Protection is a more advanced solution for the enterprise to distribute Office files containing corporate secrets to specific partners and employees, whether or not they are in the organization, while the general USB copy-protection solutions using their own exclusive viewer are for distributing read-only Office files to the general public.

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