Microsoft Offers Security Tool for Windows Server 2003

In a continuation of its strategy to tighten security for its software products, Microsoft Friday unveiled a new technology for Windows Server 2003 that will help organizations better secure such confidential documents as financial reports.

Designating rights for who can access what has become increasinly important following a year drenched in corporate scandals. The Redmond, Wash. software maker thinks it has just the ticket in Windows Rights Management Services (RMS), an ASP.NET Web service built on the Microsoft .NET Framework to work with applications to provide policy rights for Web content and sensitive corporate reports.

With Windows RMS, users can control the forwarding, copying and printing of documents, as well as expiration rules, for portals, word processing or e-mail applications. They can be crafted so that users will be able to designate who can access specific content and what kinds of access rights they can have. Rights and policy are managed by the server, while clients running applications equipped with RMS allow users to apply rights with a mouse click.

Moreover, RMS can function with business processes via Web services because the technology relies on Extensible Rights Markup Language (XrML), an emerging language for securely specifying and managing rights and conditions associated with digital content and services.

Microsoft has been chided in the last year or so for the deluge of vulnerabilities security experts, hackers and crackers have found or exploited in its servers, but its announcement Friday is indicative of the importance software firms have been placing on security, particularity in the Web services space, where it is considered one of the main barriers to adoption. Microsoft has made great efforts to improve, through its Trustworthy Computing initiative, and has enhanced certain digital rights management tools in its portfolio, especially for Windows Media.

Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft, said the technology was born out of repeated customer requests for something to safeguard their business data.

“What’s really compelling about Rights Management technology is that it enables businesses to protect the information they most worry might leak — either deliberately or inadvertently — by putting persistent protections in the documents themselves,” Nash said in a statement.

Microsoft will release two software development kits in the second quarter of 2003 to enable developers to begin to build rights management capabilities into applications for Windows clients. A beta of Windows Rights Management Services will be made public next week.