Copy Protect Files - Secure File Protection

How To Copy Protect Files?

A commonly asked question is "how can I protect my files?" which needs refining:

  • copy protect files sent by email?
  • copy protect files embedded or linked for download on a web site?
  • copy protect files distributed on disk or CD?
  • protect access to files sent by email?
  • protect access to files embedded or linked for download on a web site?
  • protect access to files distributed on disk or CD?
  • protect access to files on your own computer?

There is a big difference between protecting a file by restricting access to open a file to what there is when copy protecting the file's contents while it is open. From the options above you can see there are very different scenarios and each can require special treatment. So in order of difficulty let's look at some pros and cons.

Encryption is the basis of all file protection systems

The best way to protect anything and the mainstay of all file protection methods is encryption. It is encryption that keeps the file and its contents out of reach until teh set requirements are met, whether it be the use of a password or recognition of a key file, etc. So to protect any type of file from being accessed is quite easy because all you have to do is encrypt it and protect it by password. There is a multitude of file encryption programs and any of them will do the job for you.

File encryption is most useful because it can protect files stored on your own computer in case you ever lose the computer or if it's stolen. And it can protect files in transit, sent by email or posted on disk. Since simpletons can be quite successful selling useless apps to other simpletons, everyone needs to be aware of some file protection solutions that are most useless. For example, the concept of using a hidden password for decryption of the file based on the hard drive serial number or disk ID is not only insecure, it can be a disaster. While it may seem like a good idea to encrypt sensitive files stored on your own computer and lock them to your hard drive, what happens if your computer dies or that hard drive dies? In short, you lose everything because any backups of those files will also be encrypted and unless trying to open them on the same drive, you won't get access.

So protecting files sing encryption based on hard drive serial number is not a good idea at all because most people can lose them forever. Well that applies to most people, however for anyone really wanting to access those who has some very basic programming skills, like how to use Notepad, they can simply change their hard drive serial number or doctor a USB stick to match the same number. So there you have it... a totally useless idea that will cause havoc for most computer users and not be secure to anyone who really wants your data.

What type of file needs to be copy protected?

As already mentioned, any type of file can be encrypted and protected from user access. In fact most encryption programs will encrypt all types of files because it doesn't matter much what the contents are because it's all just data, and when decrypting all it needs to do is return the same file extension. Copy protect file software that is merely encrypting static files on your computer doesn't need to be specialized so don't fall into the trap of assuming that you need one program to encrypt files, another to encrypt images and so on.

However if the file protection system is part of a viewer or reader that also displays the contents of the file, then yes, that software will need to be specialized. But for each different file format, to display it in a viewer will usually require support resources to interpret the file format. For example if you take a MS Office file like Word and encrypt it, then to display the decrypted version of it without saving a copy to disk, it will require that the reader be able to interpret Word file format. And so it goes for all other file formats.

So now when asking ""how can I protect my files?" we have more distinct scenarios. One in which it doesn't matter what encryption is used because all it does is encrypt and decrypt, and another scenario where the file is decrypted and displayed in a reader by the same application. In both of these cases we have protected the file from unauthorized access, and that is "file protection" but it's not "copy protection". Copy protection pertains to the prevention of a file's content to be copied by printing, saving, extraction, copy'n'paste, printscreen and screen capture software. File "duplication" can never be prevented however there are measures that can be taken to prevent access to those duplicated files and the process is generally known as "DRM" or digital rights management.

Copy Protecting A File Distribution

Files distributed to others can include eBooks, videos and communication of trade and corporate secrets such as sensitive information about accounts, investments and forthcoming releases. Unfortunately there is no one solution for the whole of this broad spectrum of protected file usage. Regardless of file type there still remains the distinction between ensuring that only the intended recipient can open the file and while it is open, that its contents cannot be copied or reproduced.

For files distributed on disk in catalog or sample form, there are solutions available to prevent disk copy by embedding a secret layer in the disk recording that is supposedly invisible to normal disk copiers. However this process has been around for a while and there is bound to be a variety of options for circumventing it kindly provided by the wastrels of this world. With the stem of the problem being that the whole of the protective mechanism is stored on the disk, it is exposed for exploitation. Consequently a better alternative is to remove part of the process by requiring confirmation from a remote server online.

Distribute Protected Files On Disk Or Host Them Online?

There are pros and cons for the distribution of sample files on disk like CD and DVD. The main advantage for distributing on disk is that the user can view it locally and while offline. However the disadvatages in using this deployment are that while offline you cannot properly protect your files or prevent unaathorized use and redistribution. Also, once a catalog has been distributed on disk, it cannot be updated with the latest product, nor can discontinued products be removed.

Distributing protected files on disk that requires a user to be online is step in the right direction because it enables the integration of a rights policy administered by a remote web server. The days of dialup Internet are long gone and most users have Internet connections while walking down the street, traveling on public transport, in fact almost everywhere they go, so requiring an internet connection should no longer be concern.

The big plus with providing content dependent on an online connection is that it will always be current because it can be easily updated. Other advantages are of course the protection that can be applied and with total control... imagine being able to pull content or disable a user's access because their check bounced. Online content can be protected by log-in and it can also be protected using DRM (document rights management).

Sure, you can still distribute files on CD and that can be most useful when your file readers are included and any mechanisms to aid and enable a user to log into your site and conform their identity. A leading developer in this field and one that can provide the most secure applications for the copy protection of the largest variety of files is ArtistScope. The support team at ArtistScope provide free consultation for all copy protect file and rights access projects, and advise the best policy for your project. If they don't already have a ready-made solution, they can customize one to cater for any file protection that you require.

Copy Protecting Files For Online View

For the copy protection of files viewed online using a web browser, there are two (2) most secure options available, each providing secure copy protection from all methods of copy and save.

Copy Protecting Files Online Via A Browser Plugin

Using a web browser plugin to decrypt copy protected files and apply a layer of control to prevent copy and capture of the file while displayed is simple to deploy and most effective. If a user doesn't have the plugin installed they are redirected to download and install it. Only when the plugin is installed and active can a user view the copy protected content. CopySafe Web provides copy protection in all Windows web browsers and will prevent copy of the web page and anything displayed on that page whether it be images, Flash, PDF or video. For evaluation please see the CopySafe Web demos online.

Copy Protecting Files Online Using A Secure Web Browser

While using a browser plugin can provide a most secure viewing scenario, the situation is not ideal and a much more secure environment can be created by using a secure web browser, one specially designed to protect web content instead of exploiting it. The ArtisBrowser provides an encrypted stream from server to the user and anything displayed in the reader is most securely protected from all manner of copy without any threat of data leakage or cache retrieval. For evaluation you can download the ArtisBrowser and explore the demo links from its start page.

Copy Protecting Files For Local View & Offline Distribution

PDF files can be used for everything from contracts to invoices and brochures, and there are many diverse solutions for protection based on PDF. Password restriction and expiry dates are commonly used and there are a multitude of PDF readers that provide these options. Unfortunately most, while providing simple access restrictions, do not prevent forwarding to others nor provide protection from copy of the file's contents when open for display. When looking at the options for properly protecting a PDF file, there is only one application that is secure from all exploits. CopySafe PDF is the most secure and economical copy protection solution for PDF files.

All-in-one solution for file protection and online distribution

CopySafe PDF provides the most secure copy protection for files, protecting its contents from all manner of copy and save including screen capture. CopySafe PDF files can be distributed by download and on disk and can be read locally whether online or offline. CopySafe PDF users are entitled to free use of the CopySafe DRM Portal to further extend the protection of the files to prevent onward forwarding and unauthorized use.

  • Upload PDF files and convert to copy protected file format
  • Extend file protection to prevent unauthorized use
  • Free listing in the CopySafe eBook Store shopping cart
  • Online tools for managing file rights and downloads
  • Online book cover designer to create promotional cover images
  • Online sales using credit cards and user tracking
  • Totally free of any commissions or royalty

The publishing service provided by the CopySafe eBook Store has it all covered!

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