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4 Reasons To Secure Your PDF Files

By Ernest Hamilton , Nov 19, 2019 11:00 PM EST
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The PDF format is one of the most commonly used document types for sharing files. It can be opened by a variety of programs and maintains formatting between devices and programs. Additionally, PDFs are less likely to be edited by any unwanted parties. However, this doesn't mean that PDFs are secure, at least not without taking some steps to properly protect them. You may wonder why you would need to secure a PDF in the first place. Read on to learn more about why these four reasons to secure PDF are useful, security concerns and how to protect files simply.

1. Compliance

One of the most common reasons to secure a PDF file is due to compliance needs. This is an especially significant consideration for teams in the health, government and finance sectors. Various regulations govern the way that data can be managed and shared in certain industries. If you want to be able to continue smooth business operations while complying with the relevant laws, secure PDFs may be the answer.

Securing PDFs could be the difference between properly handling data and facing fines of millions of dollars. It isn't hard to see why properly securing PDFs can be important for businesses in highly-regulated fields.

2. Track Copied and Distributed PDFs

If something is changed, copied or distributed, it can be helpful to be able to trace the source of the issue. Sites like PDFSimpli allow you to use watermarking to help you better control your documents. Unique identifiers on different copies of a document can let you know which version was improperly shared. This system is often used for high-value intellectual property.

3. Preventing Unwanted Distribution

People love using the PDF format because it is so easy to share. Unlike most other file types, there is no headache about whether it will display properly. Unfortunately, the ease of sharing also encourages unwanted sharing. For sensitive or confidential data, this could have a significant business impact.

This can be a problem even without malicious intent. Someone can copy the wrong person on an email or upload one to a shared network drive without realizing it is getting into inappropriate hands. Securing PDF files helps to prevent unauthorized distribution both accidental and intentional.

4. Preventing Unwanted Editing

In a similar vein, a secure PDF can prevent someone from editing a file and presenting it as the original. Again, this can happen unintentionally. Someone can make a change to a PDF and share it without indicating that it has been changed. Whether malicious or not, this is something you want to avoid.

PDFs are not intended to be edited. Unlike a Microsoft Word file, for example, a PDF cannot be changed except in designated form fields. Nonetheless, people make changes from time to time using PDF editing tools. Preventing this from happening without authorization is helpful.

Security Considerations for PDFs

While securing PDFs can go a long way toward protecting the contained data, no security measure is completely foolproof. Knowing the limitations of security measures and planning for them accordingly is helpful for better-protected data.

- Passwords Can Be Vulnerable: The easiest way to gain access to encrypted data is through the users. People make mistakes and share passwords with the wrong people. This is an especially significant issue when multiple people are sharing a password document. Nonetheless, password protection is much better than no security. Additionally, PDFs can be secured with public keys that are much harder to bypass.


- Protected Documents Can Be Printable: Surprisingly, password-protected documents can sometimes be printed even without the password. Some people may find this helpful if they accidentally lock themselves out of their PDFs. However, it can be a vulnerability.


- Encryption Alone Isn't Enough: Combine security features to make the most of your PDF Security. You can get a lot more from the security features if they are used together.

How To Secure a PDF

There are a few security features you can use to protect your PDFs. The most basic is to use either a password or public key to encrypt your document. This simple act will make it much harder to access, edit or copy PDFs.

You can also disable permissions such as copying text and printing. Managing these permissions will help you significantly limit the options for circumventing security. Finally, watermark PDFs with identifiers that will make it harder to discretely share.

While none of these security features are perfect, they can be effective. Used together, these four reasons to secure PDF will help keep your PDFs better protected.

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