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December  1, 1999
Authenticated Secure Electronic Storage System
E-Document Safekeeping System Prototype
A prototype of an e-document authentication system brings the practices of Japan's paper culture to a networked society and serves as a "digital safe"
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce a prototype of its e-document safekeeping system. Along with ensuring the authenticity of electronic data in accounts, official documents and public records, it can serve as a "digital safe" to protect electronic information.
The research is part of an R&D project organized by the Information Promotion Agency and supported by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
As the information society takes hold in Japan, the originals of an increasing number of official documents and accounts are prepared with word processors or other software. While organizations preserve the hard-copy printouts, it is essential to maintain the authenticity of the master digital data. Government agencies are working to find a solution.
The ease of copying and altering electronic data poses a problem since it may be very difficult to determine which version is the original and which is a copy. Current technologies, such as electronic watermarking, have been developed to protect the copyright of electronic data. But there still is a need for a system that can trace the history of revisions in an electronic document - where changes were made, who was responsible and who agreed to them. At this point, no organization is responsible for ensuring the authenticity of electronic documents. Filling this gap would require one similar to the service that distributes encryption keys for individual authentication or certification.
The answer lies in an electronic equivalent of traditional authentication measures for master paper documents - the system developed by Olympus.
In Japan, a personal seal attests to the authenticity of a master official document. After the document is submitted to a public office or other party, another seal certifies it has been received or approved. If changes become necessary, the portion is clearly marked with "amendment lines" that leave the original wording visible so the history of revisions can be traced. The person who makes the changes puts his/her seal on the amendment lines to clarify responsibility later. Finally, the actual change is made, and an official document is stored in a secure place.
The Olympus prototype of an e-document safekeeping system follows the same steps. Drawing on the heritage of Japan's paper-based culture, this new electronic file management system emulates traditional safeguards to maintain the authenticity of electronic documents. There is also the reassurance of using it as a "digital safe" to protect electronic data from computer viruses and unauthorized access.
With these dual advantages, the system could be thought of as an independent organization in charge of authentication. It also speaks for Olympus' commitment to building a more secure information society by reinforcing the electronic infrastructure.
Electronic Equivalent of Paper Document Protection
Paper continues to play a vital role today, and it is not too much to say that contemporary society could not function without paper and its benefits. They include proof (authentication), clarity (transparency), preservation (record-keeping) and identification of the responsible parties. The new Olympus system not only offers these advantages, but adds a range of other security features.
Safeguards of Paper-based Systems
With its roots in a paper-based culture, the electronic system incorporates all the traditional elements - recording the responsible parties, a history of amendments and differentiation between originals and copies. Other features also contribute to authentication of digital data, such as prevention and detection of unauthorized alterations.
Enhanced Electronic Data Security
With hackers threatening to undermine the information society, there is mounting concern that unauthorized data access could lead to leaks, unauthorized alterations, data destruction or computer viruses. To protect essential data, the system uses sophisticated hardware and software including an advanced file management system.
MITI Project Support
With a 1995 Japanese government initiative calling for deregulation of limitations on electronic information, each ministry is reviewing the feasibility of introducing electronic safekeeping systems. Olympus has been a major participant in the Data Safekeeping and Electronic Filing Systems R&D project organized by the Information Promotion Agency and supported by MITI. The program was launched in 1997 to encourage development of original software.
*Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. was changed to OLYMPUS CORPORATION as of October 1, 2003.
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