FileOpen Systems responds to ElcomSoft PDF decryption
Company President & CEO applauds Adobe Systems' legal efforts

17 July 2001

Sanford Bingham, President & CEO of FileOpen Systems, provided Planet PDF with the following comment on ElcomSoft and its software products that allegedly crack a variety of PDF encryption solutions, including those from FileOpen and Adobe Systems.

Following is an official statement from FileOpen Systems:

"FileOpen Systems condemns the actions of ElcomSoft in releasing software to remove encryption from PDF files. The release of this software violates the privacy of individuals who have placed password protection onto their own documents and infringes the copyright of publishers who have distributed works protected by rights management systems such as our own.

We believe that individuals have a right to restrict access to their documents and that publishers have a right to control the distribution of their works. We therefore oppose the use of tools that undermine the exercise of those rights, just as we would oppose the illegal use of tools for picking locks or breaking into cars.

The mere fact that such software can be created is no justification for doing so, still less for releasing the cracking tools as a commercial product. We have directly questioned ElcomSoft representatives on their motivations for releasing these tools, and challenged their public claims to be providing a service to consumers. We have also warned ElcomSoft repeatedly that they are not above the laws of the United States in cases where they are distributing the software through U.S.-based servers and distributors. So we welcome and applaud Adobe's legal efforts to remove this product from the marketplace.

We further dispute ElcomSoft's argument that the PDF format and the Acrobat viewer are inherently insecure. Acrobat must decrypt PDF files in order to display them. Once the document has been decrypted, ElcomSoft's software steals the key. This is the equivalent of a burglar waiting for the owner to unlock the front door to his house and then sneaking in behind: it does not follow from such an action that the lock on the front door is inadequate.

This attack relies, moreover, on the document being opened in the presence of the ElcomSoft software. FileOpen Systems can and will prevent that from happening. The current versions of FileOpen's products contain countermeasures which prevent the ElcomSoft tools from removing protection from PDF files protected with our software.

FileOpen Systems' mission is to provide our customers with working solutions that strike a balance between the dual goals of security and usability. We consider it our job to negotiate constant changes to the electronic publishing landscape on behalf our customers, whether it be security challenges from determined hackers or benign changes to the Acrobat viewer. We appreciate our current and future customers' understanding of the need to constantly adapt to these changes, and are honored that so many publishers worldwide have chosen FileOpen to act on their behalf.

Despite the discouraging statements made by ElcomSoft and the security "experts" they have recruited to rationalize their case, FileOpen Systems maintains that electronic document protection is still a worthy and achievable goal. It has made it possible for millions of publishers and end-users to radically change their methods of information distribution and consumption in ways that are less expensive, more convenient, and yes, more secure than old-fashioned paper and ink. FileOpen Systems will continue to do whatever it takes to make secure electronic publishing a reality for our customers."


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