The protection of the confidentiality and privacy of proprietary documents is now an essential part of our internet day to day life.
As organizations and individuals continue to feature more business processes that leverage online document sharing, the concept of document security is now more important than ever.
Because most online processes now leverage information that can be mission-critical or sensitive, individuals and organizations must properly ensure the security of their documents.
This includes things like encryption your PDF documents, securing your Word files, keeping your sensitive information hidden, and more.
The loss or theft of personal and proprietary documents can be devastating. In a case of intellectual property loss, for example, a misuse of the lost property can trigger a legal backlash from compliance and regulatory bodies that will require the payment of levied fines.
There are several instances that will require you or your company to share a personal or proprietary document with others for review or other purposes. Given this, document security becomes important to prevent the breach of your personal or proprietary information.
Now, if you’re wondering how this affects your PDF documents and cyber security systems, here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What Is PDF Document Security And How Does It Work?
- 5 Document Security Best Practices To Secure And Protect Your PDF Documents
- Top 3 PDF Documents Security Systems To Manage, Track, And Protect Your Sensitive Files
What Is PDF Document Security And How Does It Work?
The Portable Document Format (PDF) was developed in the early 1990s and to this day, it's one of the most common file formats for sharing documents.
According to FinancesOnline, the top cloud security concern for organizations is data loss or leakage, followed by identifying and responding to security incidents, and managing multiple cloud providers.
Document security essentially comprises the range of protective measures that can be implemented to oversee and protect access to PDFs and other types of documents.
So, instead of sending unencrypted documents over gmail, there are certain steps you can take to protect your sensitive documents.
Steps and best practices which we will cover below.
5 Document Security Best Practices To Secure And Protect Your PDF Documents
Some of the most common PDF security measures you can use to safeguard your documents include:
- Password protection
- Watermarking PDF documents
- PDF document tracking
- PDF user roles and permission settings
- Document expiry, self-destruction, and access-restriction
- Digital Rights Management: Restricting copy, print, or forwarding
Now, let’s take a look at each security best practice in detail.
PDF password protection
This is one of the most straightforward and common ways to protect your document and security systems.
As the name implies, this method uses password protection to protect your PDF files.
Although the password framework cannot afford complete foolproof document protection, it complicates matters for bad actors who intend to access your document inappropriately.
The password protection method however has its demerits. For example, your password can be leaked to already authorized users since they have to be sent to said users in readable word format.
Moreover, if you want your password to stay intact, the communication of your document password can be somewhat challenging. Because of the duplicated process that fields the transfer of the document and the password independently.
Though, you can also use some safe password management tools in your organization to make this step easier.
In short, password-protecting your document either in the cloud or offline is the simplest method of document security. It’s recommended you use this as a best practice in your security systems in addition to other relevant security measures we’re going to cover below.
To learn how to password protect your PDF documents, see here:
- 5+ Ways to Encrypt and Password Protect Word Documents
- How to Password Protect Google Docs?
- How to Password Protect PDF Files on Mac
Watermarking PDF Documents
Traditionally, watermarking was utilized for ownership claims for documents and intellectual properties.
Now, watermarking of PDF documents features extensive application in the digital world in the current information age.
For example, if you wanted to discourage the transfer of your documents, you can easily add the recipient's email address or office portfolio as a digital watermark for the document.
Should a breach occur, you can easily determine the source of the breach through the watermarked recipients' details.
Another application of digital watermarking is that it acts as a psychological cue for your document recipients. In this case, the watermark is used to indicate the relevance of the document.
For example, a document that is watermarked as confidential will be treated differently from a similar document that doesn't have a watermark.
The traditional utility of watermarks, however, is still relevant in the information age as it can be leveraged to claim the ownership of a document.
And keep in mind, watermarks can easily be added and removed from PDFs utilizing any word docs software, either online or offline.
So, to take this security measure a step further, there are 2 types of digital watermarks you should know about:
- Invisible watermarks - Watermarks that are invisible to the naked eye and need special steganography software to be revealed.
- Visible watermarks - Watermarks that are visible to the naked eye.
For more information on using digital watermarks as a PDF security measure, see our guide on digital watermarking examples.
PDF document tracking
PDF document tracking is a key feature that automates the process of searching, accessing, editing, and managing your electronic documents or files.
With a document tracking system in your organization, you can:
- Control who views a document.
- Who can edit it.
- Who can share it.
- What changes have been made.
- Who the document has been sent to.
- And more.
This method of document security will allow you to closely monitor your document in real-time as well as gain a history backlog of the steps the document went through.
This will allow you to easily flag suspicious activity and promptly deal with it. This document security measure works best when combined with access revocation measures which will ensure that you have absolute control over your documents.
Primarily, PDF document tracking management is useful when transferring sensitive information and you want to restrict the audience of your PDF documents.
PDF tracking features can also be utilized inversely to measure the popularity of your document after you have uploaded the file.
Say, you are pitching an idea to a person or an organization, you can take advantage of the tracking feature to check if your document has been accessed after an elapsed time frame.