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One of the biggest benefits of using PDF software is that you can build a high level of security into the file itself. However, this powerful benefit is shockingly underutilized as many companies either don't realize it's possible, or simply haven't bothered with it.

Here are 10 reasons why you should secure your PDF Documents:

First, Some PDF File Security Basics

PDF File security goes beyond common word processors to give you a whole host of options including:

  • PDF encryption
  • PDF digital rights management (DRM) controls
  • PDF password protection (PKI)
  • PDF copy protection.

Between these four functions, you can integrate a high level of security into your PDF files. A good place to start is with encryption. Without strong encryption, it would be easy for someone to disable or bypass your other PDF security measures like DRM and password protection.

After encrypting, the traditional route is to implement password protection for your PDF file. This method however, has some drawbacks and DRM and Copy Protection are generally safer routes.

With you can fully control who has to your PDF file and when they they receive it. You can allow or disallow:

  • Printing
  • Editing
  • Copying
  • Viewing
  • Commenting
  • Form filling
  • Signing
  • And more

Finally, there's copy protection. This stops someone from copying your PDF to their computer by encrypting it and only making the file usable with a decryption key. You can even redact sensitive information, preventing unwanted parties from viewing personal or confidential info.

With that covered, let's get into some of the reasons why you need PDF Security:

1. PDF Compliance

This is a big benefit of PDF security, especially for businesses and startups within the health, government, and financial sectors. Even if you aren't in those sectors, dealing with a customer's private information requires you to comply with Europe's new GDPR General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018, and PDF can help ensure their data is adequately protected.

GDPR software solution

This is one of the most powerful benefits of securing PDF documents as it can help you avoid hefty fines. Again, using GDPR's new rulings as an example, you could be fined $20 million or 4% of your total revenue (whichever is larger). By simply encrypting PDFs, which store sensitive information, you could save yourself $20 million. If you don't see the significance in that, you need to get your noggin checked! Sometimes you need to take it a step further and redact PDF data so we recommend checking out Redactor:

Download Redactor

2. Protecting Intellectual Property

In some cases, you may be storing intellectual property in your PDFs. Since PDF is the best medium to share documents, it's common to store trade secrets, internal processes, and more as PDF files. If these files aren't adequately secured, you could suffer from a leak of the info, or in the event of a breach, easy pickings for the attacker.

If your company truly values it's intellectual property, and doesn't want it to be stolen, you need to be securing your PDF Files. Copy protection, encryption, redaction, and DRM all come in to play here, working to protect your company's assets.

3. Preventing Unwanted Distribution

PDF files are commonly used within the publishing industry, but few within the industry take measure to secure their files. This can result in leaked drafts and books set for publication being found, read and shared before they ever hit the printing press. While yes, in some instances, leaks have resulted in a surge in pre-orders, you shouldn't count on it.

If the book gets leaked to the general masses, and they can easily download it without needing to pay, you can bet your pre-orders will suffer as a result!

4. Controlling Who Sees What

In some instances, you may have PDF files which need to be both widely distributed, but also need to hide confidential info, unless a viewer has the necessary role or clearance. This is commonly the case with government agencies we work with, like the Department of Defense.

In these scenarios, PDF is considered the document storage standard as it allows files to be indexed and stored in a way that other departments and government organizations can access the data when needed. In addition to the ease of storage and access, PDF files are the go-to document platforms because confidential info can be redacted and only visible to members with property security clearance by using DRM.

In these instances, ActivePDF is considered the standard for providing government agencies with high-level PDF solutions for securing, archiving, and retrieving sensitive and classified PDF documents.

Additionally, the high levels of encryption create a more secure digital transformation environment, an important factor for government and enterprise organizations.

5. Stop Unwanted Sharing

One of the many benefits of incorporating PDFs is the ease with which they can be shared. Unfortunately, this also comes as a caveat. PDFs are so easy to share that anyone with access to the file could easily leak it. This can prove to be a major issue, especially when PDFs are shared with hundreds and possibly even thousands or millions of individuals like the WikiLeaks CIA leak where 8,761 classified documents were exposed.

However, thanks to copy protection and DRM, this fear is becoming less of an issue. If you're sharing PDFs with more than a handful of trusted individuals, you'll need to be using these tools to stop unwanted sharing. Additionally, if you use the right tools, you can provide access to PDFs with individualized encryption keys instead of passwords, meaning someone couldn't share the PDF even if they tried.

6. Stop Unwanted PDF Printing

Similar to PDF sharing, printing PDFs used to be a major issue for preventing distribution. Think about it, a PDF could easily be printed, then either mailed to a news outlet or simply scanned and republished, bypassing the protections put in place for unwanted sharing.

Alternatively, with modern DRM, that's an issue of the past. You can simply disable the ability to print and you're good to go.

7. Preventing Copying and Pasting

One of the other powerful benefits of using PDF files over other methods, is the ability to copy their contents and paste them elsewhere. In many applications, this is a great benefit, but for some, this can be a liability.

If you need to disable the ability to copy and paste a file's contents, again, that can be easily accomplished through DRM which can enable only specific individuals to copy file contents, while others are prevented from doing so entirely.

8. Prevent Screenshots and Photos

While watermarks are still debated, they are one of the best ways to prevent a viewer from “screenshotting” a file to circumvent other blocked distribution methods. This works by putting individualized watermarks on each file, allowing you to trace back any leak to its source.

Most high-end PDF solutions such as ActivePDF’s Toolkit and DocConverter include the ability to automatically add customized watermarks.

9. Prevent the Saving of a PDF

Another reason you'd want to secure your PDF documents is to prevent the ability for a viewer to save your document, which is yet another way an attacker could breach or steal confidential information.

By keeping PDF files stored only on a central, security-hardened server, you minimize the ways in which an attacker could attempt to breach your company's cyber defenses, reducing the risk of data breaches. This is something business have been more and more cautious about lately, thanks to the increase in security breaches each year.

10. Prevent Caching When Viewing a PDF on the Web

If you're a viewing or editing a PDF document via the web, you run the risk of unintentionally allowing users to save the PDF to their device. This is because web pages are often cached on the user's disk, and those caches can be used to recover the PDF and access it offline, even if it's not meant to be. That's why it's important to ensure you are disabling local caching when using browser-based viewers and editors. Try Reader Plus, ActivePDF's browser-based PDF viewer and editor, to see how it works for you:

Reader Plus: Download Free Trial    Try Reader Plus

Another great alternative is to look into a more secure web-based PDF viewer/editor, such as ActivePDF’s Reader Plus, a self-hosted API that works securely behind your organization’s firewall. Enhanced control lets you prevent users from downloading or printing documents, ensuring sensitive data remains securely on the server.

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Great PDF Security Starts With Great PDF Tools

You can't properly secure your PDF if you don't have the necessary tools. That's why we've built our PDF tools with security in mind, allowing businesses to adopt secure, convenient, and affordable PDF solutions.

If you need PDF software that'll ensure compliance, prevent unwanted distribution, and more, download Toolkit or reach out to the knowledgeable technology advisors at ActivePDF today!

Download Toolkit