Home > Articles > Security > Network Security

The Doc Lockbox: Information Rights Management in Word 2003

Laurie Rowell shows an easy way to provide extra levels of protection for your Microsoft Word documents. With information rights management (IRM), you can strongarm anyone who tries to access your files without your express permission, or graciously grant access to read, copy, print, and even edit your deathless prose.
Like this article? We recommend

I'm not saying the world is full of creeps trying to steal a peek at your next letter to Great-Aunt Hattie. Even at my most paranoid, I don't fear hordes of Hollywood moviemakers scanning my hard drive for a glimpse at that whimsical blockbuster script that I've been doing the spadework on for some time ("Debt: Life in America"). On the other hand, anyone who does want an unauthorized gander at the golden words you've written ought to be foiled, right? On principle, if nothing else.

There are plenty of good reasons to lock documents. Leaving company competitors firmly in the dark about what you write can save both your firm's market share and your job. Keeping unauthorized personnel out of documents can reduce lawsuits. In departments such as accounting and HR, these legal concerns can be backed by such strong human considerations as preservation of privacy. In law firms, keeping a tight lid on data can mean the difference between winning and losing a case. On the off chance that there's ever a leak in your corner of the business world, you want to be the one wearing the halo, able to show that you were taking adequate precautions all along.

There are several ways to go about protecting your Microsoft Office documents and a number of safety measures that you might take, but one that allows you plenty of control over your documents is the information rights management (IRM) feature available in several of the Office 2003 applications, including Word 2003, Outlook 2003, Excel 2003, and PowerPoint 2003. This file-level security feature works with Windows Server 2003 Rights Management Service, letting you determine how you will share specific documents with those who need to see them—and confidently repel those who don't.

Better yet, IRM not only lets you determine which of your coworkers or clients can open your documents, but how they can interact with those docs once they're open.

Why You Want To Use IRM

In general, once your friendly neighborhood systems administrator gives a user access to otherwise restricted sites or computers, he or she can open any files on those shares. But the IRM restrictions that you put in place are document-specific, giving you access control to sensitive documents when they're no longer on your desktop. This capability reduces the odds that—either by accident or design—unauthorized eyes will be blinking over vulnerable data that you've written (or changing it or printing it for future reference).

IRM can secure your work against leaks from any of these common office info sources:

  • Email. In earlier versions of Office, when you attached a document, you had no control over whether it was subsequently forwarded. In Outlook 2003, you can use IRM to keep people from forwarding, copying, or printing your attachments, even after they leave the firewall. Emailed documents that are protected by IRM in Word can only be opened by those with permission (no matter which email application is used).

  • Servers. To prevent unauthorized document sharing or unintended use, you can set an expiration date on your document when you post on SharePoint or other network sites. When the document expires, it disappears from the share.

  • Routing lists. Protect your document from unintentional changes by implementing permission controls for editing and reviewing. Such controls can apply either to a whole document or to specified parts.

One final issue: Why would you use IRM instead of password-protecting your document? Well, here's one thought. If you assign password protection to a document and forget the password, it's tricky to open the file. In fact, you just can't do it, right? Actually, you can. With a recovery tool such as Passware you can access your protected data without straining your noggin to recall your password. Of course, any interested party can get to your data just as easily by downloading the software. The astute will observe that this capability rather defeats the purpose of the password, making access to supposedly "secure" documents so easy that it must take the fun out of cracking them.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020