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PDF And Document Security Systems: Protect, Track, And Secure PDFs

June 9, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

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.

graphic representing the percentages of cybersecurity concerns for organizations all over the world

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:

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.

how visible and invisible watermarks looks like

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.

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PDF user roles and permission settings

What are PDF user roles in security management?

A user role is access permission that defines what a specific user can do in a tool.

Then, the scope of allowed actions depends on the specific role. For example, a primary owner has the highest level of authority over your PDF document. While a viewer can only view the documents or folders, without permission to make changes to the document.

As a rule of thumb, security management software typically involves the following user roles:

  • Primary owner.
  • Admin.
  • Editor.
  • Contributor.
  • Viewer.

Though, of course, you can also set up custom roles and permissions, based on your PDF documents and security systems.

To learn what’s the difference between the above roles and for more practical information on using user roles as part of your document security systems, see our full guide to user role setup and management.

Document expiry, self-destruction, and access restriction

This security measure utilizes traditional expiry dates and self-destruction features to implement control over restricted documents. 

This security measure fields numerous applications for when you want to revoke a recipient's document access or limit the duration of their access through its featured protocols.

For example, here are a few use cases for your PDF and document security systems:

  • An employee has just left your company or your contract with a contractor has expired and you don't wish to renew the contract. If you want to make sure that these groups of people no longer have access to your in-house documents, you can make sure the document will automatically expire or delete itself.
  • You are managing over a project that requires you to provide sensitive information to your workers but you don't want long-term access to the featured information.
  • You seek to offer a service or contract that is only relevant in a  given timeframe and you want to revoke access to the information post featured deadline.
  • You want to prevent multiple utilities of links you provided.

All of these cited scenarios and other similar situations can be managed efficiently by the document expiry, revocation of access, and self-destruct features for PDF documents. 

This particular security measure fields high global institutional adoption as companies prefer to implement their restrictions in their normal daily document management practices.

As stated earlier, these features work best when used in combination with other security measures as is the case with this expiry and self-destruct method.

Digital rights management (DRM)

The Digital Rights Management (DRM) security measure enables authors to control actions that readers can perform on their documents. 

This measure is mostly implemented over sensitive information or intellectual property documents that require restrictions on copying and unauthorized distribution.

DRM affords features that also enable you to prevent unauthorized printing of your documents to prevent the unintended spread of your documents due to the loss of hard copies. You can also stop unauthorized copying and editing actions on your document to prevent bad actors from stealing your intellectual property via duplicated documents pasted from your files.

To learn more about document auditing and digital rights management, see our full guide on document management governance process tips.

Top 3 PDF Documents Security Systems To Manage, Track, And Protect Your Sensitive Files

Document security systems are now fielding record high relevance globally. 

To make sure your documents are protected, tracked, and secure, here are a number of PDF document security software you can use.

1. Broadcom Symantec Endpoint Encryption

broadcom symantec endpoint encryption homepage

Symantec is a document security system that utilizes its proprietary military-grade encryption tech to safeguard your documents and improve your document security. 

You can utilize the system to encrypt your full drive, a drive sector, or your external storage device like the flash drive. 

It is designed for bulk use featuring a 45-day money-back guarantee and email protection.

Symantec, however, cannot be used on mobile devices and Linux operating systems.

2. InvisibleSecrets

east-tec InvisibleSecrets encryption system

The invisibleSecrets document security system allows for the encryption of documents directly on your computer from your Windows Explorer. InvisibleSecrets allows you to send your encrypted file via email and effectively hide your files on your computer.

The system is easy to use, effective, and versatile. It however features a high asking price compared to other available security systems. Uninstallation of the software leaves significant residue files that you will have to remove manually.

3. Inkit Render

inkit's home page

Inkit Render is a document generation platform with a flare for security and safe file management.

In addition to document generation, Render takes total control over document security.

Render uses automatic storage with secure access controls and multiple confidentiality options, in addition to PDF user roles and permissions settings mentioned above.

For extra secure storage, other features include:

  • Confidential reports - Render automatically stores sensitive information and reports on its purpose-built platform as soon as they're generated. This leaves 0 risks of manual intervention or misplacement between creation and storage.
  • Private customer information - Handling sensitive customer data must be done with as little risk as possible. For safety measures as well as compliance. Render was built with security standards like GDPR and HIPAA in mind. So, any sensitive customer data gets stored safely with restricted access.
  • Complete log of actions -This is perfect for monitoring and deterring any suspicious activity, or when conducting regular PDF document audit analysis.
  • And more - Inkit Render deals with real problems faced by sectors that need assurance in document generation and security. This includes sectors like government and defense, finance, healthcare, utilities, tech, and more.

Need more information on how Inkit Render can help your PDF and document security systems?

Read more about Inkit PDF Renderer here!

Conclusion

Every business needs to retain some level of security and privacy. Especially as far as their document security systems are concerned.

Hopefully, this guide to document security was helpful. And the next time you’re handling sensitive information, the above best practices will come in handy! 

To recap, some of the biggest security challenges when it comes to document management and generation include:

  • Legal issues related to payment, customer communication, and confidential information.
  • Rendering software issues in paperless payment processing and paperless communications.
  • Storage and software security problems.

Now, if you’re considering going paperless or looking for even more specific security solutions, be sure to check out our full guide to going paperless: Legal, software & security challenges, and how to overcome them!

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