Keeping it confidential

Features, Innovation - Features

Information rights management secures Asian Paints’ critical data | By Team MT | Knowledge sharing, information exchange, and collaboration have now become the most critical business requirements in globalised organisations. However, ensuring information security during such collaborations has become a major issue for enterprises. India’s leading colour and paints company Asian Paints faced a similar dilemma.

A few years ago, Asian Paints felt the need to introduce document security for its intellectual property (IP), legal agreements, specific formulations and R&D whitepapers, as it undertook an organisation- wide information management overhaul. Asian Paints procured a document management system (DMS) solution (FileNet from IBM), and felt the need to deploy a solution to provide document protection.

“People leaving Asian Paints carried a lot of confidential and significant business information. Hence, we felt the need to protect our know how with strong controls like information rights management,” avowed Maulik Desai, senior manager, system development, Asian Paints.

The company’s R&D department published and shared several whitepapers for internal use. It was impossible to monitor how many times these physical copies were accessed, copied or forwarded. “Although our R&D department was open to the idea of digitising these documents, it feared that the soft copies would be easier to share, copy or edit,” remarked Desai. This impelled the company to deploy an information rights management solution, which could protect its documents with granular rights.

Every enterprise has sensitive information, for which the circulation needs to be restricted. If not restricted, the loss or leakage of this information (whether accidental or intentional) can cause harm to the company’s reputation, or result in legal or statutory penalties, or financial losses and quite probably, all of the above.

Agreeing, Geet Lulla, vice president, sales, Seclore said, “In the case of Asian Paints, the trigger problem was to ensure that their products information like chemical formulations, was accessible only to the relevant persons within and outside the organisation, while actually being stored on the enterprise content repository from where it could be downloaded. Using Seclore, both the objectives were easily met – availability and confidentiality.”

While we live in an increasingly online world one cannot imagine not being connected to emails, social media or the Internet for more than 30 minutes. This is more so true for GenY for who even 30 seconds is a long wait time. The documents that earlier resided “safely” within laptops, and were shared over internal networks and mail systems, are today, being shared over Dropbox or Google Drive.

While this enables people to stay connected, search for information and news, to share it exposes them to threats. Sometimes the sharing needs to be done securely, ensuring that the information being shared does not get misused or abused. This is especially true in corporate, government and defense scenarios, where sensitive (and sometimes top secret) information has to be shared, but still has to be restricted only to the designated persons or teams.

Elaborating further, Lulla averred, “Traditionally, the only protection that could be applied to protect electronic documents was ‘password protection’ – but this is not real protection, since once the password is available with the intended recipient, s/he has full control over the document. Our solution- Seclore enables individuals and enterprises to define ‘who’ can access information stored in Seclore-protected electronic files (for example, MS-Word, OpenOffice, pdf, AutoCAD, etc.), and then define:

  • What activities they can perform on the files (view-only, print, edit, etc.)
  • When they can access the files (not before/not after, specified number of days)
  • Where they can access the files (on specific computers and/or networks).”

Asian Paints did not blindly select the Seclore software. It studied the software against others. They evaluated three products — FileSecure from Seclore, Microsoft’s Information Rights Management and EMC’s Documentum Content Management solutions. The solution from Microsoft provided protection only for Microsoft Office documents, while EMC offered a DMS with a rights protection feature. The company was mainly looking for an information rights management solution that could be easily integrated with its recently procured DMS and active directories.

Other evaluation criteria included providing offline user access, as well as the vendor’s domain expertise. After much deliberation, Asian Paints decided to opt for the information rights management solution from Seclore. “Among all the evaluated solutions, FileSecure provided us with maximum flexibility and integration capabilities,” noted Desai. The Seclore FileSecure, integrated with IBM FileNet, ensures that documents getting downloaded can only be accessed by the authorised users, and will not open for the unauthorised ones.

Asian Paints initially acquired a few user licenses (just over 20) and the software deployment took two weeks. However, it took time to integrate the information rights management solution with Asian Paints’ DMS. Asian Paints was convinced that the information rights management tool could be used most effectively when integrated with the existing DMS. “We felt that if you leave it to an individual to protect the documents on an ongoing basis, it will become user dependent. It was critical to create a central repository, where there will be credentials and security will be ensured in the workflow by default,” explained Desai.

Asian Paints has tie-ups with several body shops and service centers that provide automobile coating services. The company offers royalties to such body shops. Information about these amounts needs to be protected, as its leakage could result in serious business loss. The company has saved all such agreements on its DMS repository and ensures blanket security through the information rights management tool. Only the central legal system and certain field users have access to this information on a need-to-know basis.

According to Desai, Asian Paints has seen significant increase in user confidence while sharing critical documents within as well as outside the organisation. Apart from protecting R&D documents, the company has started using its information rights management solution for sharing legal and other strategic business documents, and been successful in protecting its IP from rivals. “End-user convenience is a dominant part of our approach, to ensure that the technology is very easily deployable, and adoption/ usage is maximised by making it as simple to use as possible. All the technical complexities have to be made invisible to the regular business user,” emphasised Lulla.

Elucidating on how they work with manufacturing companies Lulla ascertains that there are segments of the manufacturing industries which they call ‘IP-intensive manufacturing’. For example, OEMs in automotive, specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hightech manufacturing, all have their own IP, and often use extensive outsourcing to optimise their cost structures and supply chains. This involves frequent sharing of the OEM’s IP (formulations, drawings, designs, etc.) to these outside agencies. “These are the business segments that we are especially focused on, and in which we have had success. I must point out that the pharmaceutical segment has been an especially heavy adopter of Seclore, both in India and globally.”

Currently from the manufacturing industry perspective, the company is working on API integration with industry-standard enterprise applications like SAP and Siebel, increased support for cloud-based file-sharing services like Dropbox, as well as handling more file formats. “These are some of the things that we will be bringing to the market in the coming months,” declared Lulla.


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