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Protecting Trade Secrets in Digital Documents

You should know that trade secrets being leaked to the wrong people could lead to the ultimate downfall of even huge companies. Just consider Coca-Cola and KFC. While other businesses compete with these giants, they have not yet been able to take their place as market leaders. This is because the products these giants offer are considered superior by their customers. And, how their products are made is only known by a few people in the companies. However, if their rivals (say Pepsi) were to get hold of their formulas and recipes, it would put the rivals in a much better position to topple the giants. Consequently, trade secrets need to be protected.

Also, given the nature of today’s business world, the information needs to be kept in documents. After all, word of mouth has proved unreliable, while documents allow you to ensure that you convey the exact meaning intended. Furthermore, as it stands, digital files are the norm due to the easy sharing and storage of these files.

Luckily, if you want to protect your trade secrets in digital format, there are a couple of ways you can do so. You can find these highlighted below.

Prevent the Document Saving Functions

You already know how easy documents are to save on a computer. Just tapping the ctrl+s shortcut on a Windows PC gives you the option to “save as”. The people you send trade secrets to have the exact same functionalities on their computers and can use them to save unprotected copies of your documents on their desktops. So, if you value your trade secrets, you will prevent the save and save as functions at all costs which may mean having to use a document DRM system.

Stop Unauthorized Devices From Accessing Documents

A document DRM systems core control is that it locks document usage to a particular authorized device. This is done as the document is embedded with high levels of encryption and the device is provided with the key to open it. A point of note here is that the user does not know what the key is since it is held in an encrypted keystore which only the Viewer application can access. As such, the key cannot be shared by an individual user. So, even if a user shares his or her copy of the original file, it will only be a fool’s errand. After all, the file will not open on any device other than the authorized one.

Also, you hold the keys to licensing devices at your fingertips and, if need be, can revoke access to files.

Prevent Printing

When trade secrets are involved, you have to prevent printing. In other scenarios, you might consider still allowing this, but given the value of trade secrets, a document you cannot track (such as a paper file) may be very problematic. When you incorporate a document DRM solution, the provider should show you how to allow or prevent printing. If you are to enable printing of paper files, you should also learn how to limit the number of prints.

One point to consider is that people have long used the allowance to print as an excuse to “print to file,” which may lead to another unprotected PDF being created.  A good document DRM system will prevent this.

Record How Documents Are Used

At no time should there be too many people who have access to your trade secrets in document form as a limited number of trade secret recipients are easier to monitor. Also, as the provider, you should log how often a person opens a document and where they do so as well as whether they tried to print the file and where they tried to print it. Analyzing this information is the key to determining whether the user is trustworthy.

Of course, this information is useless if you cannot do anything with it. As such, a document DRM’s ability to revoke access may come in handy when you see some shady dealings. Also, you can use the revoke access feature to set an expiry date for documents, coinciding with an individual’s time in office. As a result, the people will not carry your trade secrets with them once their tenure is over.

Watermark Trade Secrets

It is illegal to steal trade secrets and people know that. Usually, people get away with such misbehavior because nothing links them to trade secret theft. This is where dynamic watermarks shine. They record the user’s details on the stolen document. And, if things go south, the user who leaked your trade secrets can be pursued in law. As such, most people will not be willing to risk it.

Conclusion

Trade secrets may sum up the total value of a company and should be treated with the utmost care. Implementing a document DRM system is one way to ensure that they are not leaked and do not reach your competitors or the public domain. As such, it is a no brainer that you should get one of these systems installed ASAP.

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