Control external documents with document control software
External document control is a method for controlling documents that are external to you, or for controlling internal documents that are going to be sent outside your organizational controls.
Here we are considering the case of documents that are created under your control and are being sent outside – external document sharing and external document distribution.
The commonest form of controls to be applied to external documents is none at all. Whether document encryption has been applied or not, once an authorized recipient has a document they may do anything they like to and with it. The vast majority of information on web sites or held as electronic documents or databases has no controls applied to it once it is outside the immediate control of the organization.
This is often not a satisfactory state of affairs. There are many reasons why the creator of a document would want to apply external controls to documents. Perhaps the most important control wanted is the ability to prevent others from sharing the content with unauthorized parties or altering the document and perhaps misrepresenting its content(s). Other additional controls providing digital rights management (DRM) may be necessary to make sure documents expire after a certain period of time.
External document controls are not easy to apply. If documents are prepared using the customary tools and services (a word processing package, a web page creation tool, a presentation package, a picture creating tool) then these usually have no controls at all, allowing the user full control over the contents. So if control of external documents is going to be implemented, it must be in such a form that the recipient of a controlled document is not able to use normal tools such as those outlined above, in order to process it. Because if they can process it with normal tools it is most likely they can do anything they like with the document.
So external document controls that do not rely upon a program quite separate from the one that created the document are not likely to work, and, of course, the format of the file the document is held in must not allow ready processing of the content either. Because you cannot have external document control if the file that contains the document can be read by anyone. As a result, external document protection also requires encryption in order ensure that controls are not trivial to bypass.