Liquid Machines pushes rights management

Rights management vendor Liquid Machines Inc. on Monday released the latest version of its data protection software that adds the ability to extend its corporate document access controls to partners and suppliers.

Liquid Machines 2.0 pushes rights management features past the firewall, allowing companies to use rules and roles defined in the Liquid Machines server to control the creation and enforcement of access rights that dictate who can read, edit, copy, print or forward documents and how long they have access to the digital data.

"One issue that we have been waiting for is interoperability with extended clients," says an IT project manager at a large consulting firm who asked not to be identified. "In the past we found nothing that would protect editable documents. You could encrypt and decrypt but you had to trust the user once the document was decrypted." The project manager says he is piloting Liquid Machines to help secure documents that are shared with an outside client.

"We think the technology is at the point where we can get rolling," he says. "Liquid Machines doesn't require a lot of thinking by end-users. It doesn't interfere with the way they work and that is the key."

Liquid Machines lets companies control use of a document based on a set of policies the define on the Liquid Machines server. The policies are then pushed out to client-side software that acts as an intelligent shim between the application and the operating system it is running on. When the user tries to open the document on their desktop the client software enforces the policies that are associated with that document. If the user's client software does not support the policy, the document cannot be decrypted.

Liquid Machines stores all documents in an encrypted form.

Policies are assigned at the time a user creates a document. The client software works with any document creation program such as Office or Adobe and adds a drop-down menu of policies to the application's title bar.

The menu forces the document creator to select one of any number of configurable server-side policies that control access permissions instead of letting the user randomly assign access controls. For example, a policy defined as "corporate confidential" would allow only executives to read or edit the document but not copy or forward its contents.

With version 2.0 users also can assign policies based on roles, the type of data or other attributes using a feature called Promoted Policy. For example, someone in the role of stockbroker may automatically have an access policy assigned to any document they create.

"If you get in the way of the end user and reduce productivity people won't use the software," says Ed Gaudet, vice president of product marketing for Liquid Machines.

Liquid Machines 2.0 also features upgrades to its logging and auditing features, which now allow data to be exported into reporting tools. Also new is a role-based workflow and back-office application support through a set of APIs. Version 2.0 also contains new management tools for help desk and systems administrators.

The company is currently working with Microsoft to help extends the software giant's Right Management Services beyond the Microsoft platform. Liquid Machines competes with similar software from SealedMedia, Adobe and Authentica.

Liquid Machines 2.0 is available now at is priced between US$50-$100 per client depending on volume. The software also supports Citrix and Windows Terminal Services thin clients.

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