Adobe’s history of content protection

Every once in a while, someone asks “How long has Adobe offered content protection?” Turns out, Adobe’s information assurance efforts have been ramping up for over a dozen years. Adobe provides security features in numerous products and also provides dedicated security solutions such as LiveCycle Digital Signatures and LiveCycle Rights Management. Here’s a brief history:

Adobe’s history of content protection started with Acrobat 2.0 in 1994. At the time, this was simple 40-bit RC4 password-based encryption and digital rights management (DRM) to restrict who can open the document and what they can do with it.

Acrobat 4.0 in 1999 added support for Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) enabling a single PDF document to be protected for multiple recipients, with different permissions based on their own keypair. Depending on who opened the document, printing, modification, and clipboard actions are enabled/disabled. This release was also the first to add digital signatures using PKI. This was important for paper documents to move to digital with an opportunity for higher levels of assurance than a pen could provide on paper with a wet signature (ink) by utilizing cryptographic protections of authenticity, integrity, and non-repudiation. Acrobat 5.0 added support for 128-bit RC4 encryption for stronger levels of confidentiality. Acrobat 6.0 added support for the Microsoft CryptoAPI to (CAPI) so the keypair could be stored in the Windows certificate store or through a Crypto Service Provider (CSP) to smartcards and other tokens.

In 2005, Acrobat and Reader 7.0 shipped along with LiveCycle Policy Server and Security Server. AES128 encryption was added to PDF. The enterprise rights management capabilities of Policy Server integrate with an organization’s LDAP or Active Directory. A policy coupled with an information classification such as “Insider Restricted” restricts who can open the document, what they can do with it, and also provides enterprise auditing measures. Absolute (e.g. on 12/31) and relative (e.g. 7 years from document creation) expiration dates can be set to automatically expire documents. All these permissions in a policy are dynamic and can change after the document is published – to add or delete users, change permissions, or even revoke the document entirely. This revocation feature is used by many to enable version control outside a repository, so as a document is changed on the server all distributed copies of that document are automatically revoked providing the recipient with a notification to go back to the server for a current version. Visual watermarking capabilities on PDF are able to show the policy name, recipient opening the document, and the date/time. Acrobat and Reader 7.0 were also US Department of Defense (DoD) certified by the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC). The LiveCycle Security Server provided the ability to apply and validate digital signatures as well as encrypt and decrypt document in an automated business process. Flash Media Server 2 provided protected streaming capabilities for delivering video to Flash Player.

As we wrap up 2007, there has been a lot going on over the last 12 months. Acrobat, Reader, and LiveCycle shipped with new FIPS 140 approved encryption libraries. LiveCycle Rights Management (formerly Policy Server) now supports native Microsoft Office documents as well as Dassault CATIA. LiveCycle Digital Signatures (formerly Security Server) provides XML signature support as well as certified documents and is integrated with automated forms and document generation processes. Adobe’s rights management has been integrated into hardware devices such as Multi Function Peripherals (MFPs) from Ricoh and others. Third party software vendors including PTC and Hitachi/Lattice3D are integrating Rights Management into their native applications. Adobe Media Player is in public pre-release with support for content protection on downloadable and offline Flash video.

What about 2008 and beyond? Stay tuned for more entries as Adobe’s security solutions expand to protect even more aspects of the information lifecycle – independent of storage, independent of transport, across operating systems and file formats.