Document Protection

Document Security Systems: Secure Documents, control & track use

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Document security management and protection systems

What is document security?

Document security is a catch-all term that’s usually used to refer to the protection of information contained in text-based files.  Document protection for digital documents can include techniques to prevent unauthorized viewing, printing, copying, editing, and screen grabbing, or measures to prevent counterfeiting or alteration such as watermarking.

Organizations’ requirements for document security can differ greatly, as can what they are setting out to achieve with it.  Here we will look at the three principal approaches used today (encryptionDRM, and collaboration), how they rely upon each other, and where they differ.

What are the types of document security?

  • Encryption

    Underpinning all document security systems is encryption.  If your document security system does not use this, then forget it – it’s just smoke and mirrors.  Encryption is the technology that hides documents from those who are not authorized and verifies that the content the originator created is unchanged.

    If you are an authorized recipient of encrypted information, you can do anything you like with that information once you have removed the encryption.  That is the Achilles’ heel. The recipient of documents that have been decrypted can go on to use them in any way they wish, and to alter them in any way they wish.  That does not mean they can pretend that someone else created them, which is a valuable protection, provided you can be bothered to look closely at the authenticity of the documents you receive.  But judging by the number of people taken in by fake messages from financial institutions or amazing offers from Nigeria, maybe looking to see if a document is real is not a top priority.

    Encryption, therefore, is just the building block of document security and is of limited use after the document reaches its intended recipient.

  • DRM – Digital Rights Management

    DRM looks to take care of continuing control(s) over information.  Whether it’s a song, film, or book, DRM uses and then goes beyond the capabilities of pure encryption by enforcing persistent controls over the ability to use the content.  It is used to limit the ability to distribute (Copyright being the right to make copies and distribute) print, or view.

    Historically, DRM has been used when one entity wants to grant access to its information to another entity, but under controlled conditions.  This can be for making sure employees cannot take key documents containing sensitive information with them if they leave, or that those who have bought a book, or a training course, cannot pass it on to anyone else without the publisher’s permission (and, no doubt, a fee).

    The combination of digital rights management controls and encryption ensure documents cannot be shared with others, copied, modified, or printed.  The use of copy and paste and screen grabbing is usually prevented (depending on the vendor).  Also, some DRM systems enable you to lock document use to specific locations (say an office in the US).  This can be an important security feature if you want to prevent mobile device users from using documents in insecure or unauthorized locations.

    If you are looking for complete control over your document security, then a solution that uses digital rights management is what you need to purchase.

  • Collaboration

    Collaboration is an important aspect of the document workflow where document modification is required.  Often, it does not make use of encryption technology for security, instead relying on access control mechanisms to identify who authorized users are and to link those identities to the input they made on a specific document.

    As you can guess, collaboration is really a precursor activity to DRM.  The controls for collaboration are focused on making sure corporate administrators can be certain that only authorized persons had access to and could (or did) amend the document, and that it is properly authorized for distribution.  The document that is distributed will appear to be a finished item, and nothing surrounding internal management will be made available to anyone, either internally or externally.  The ability to prevent the use of simple cut and paste or stop screen grabbing by third-party screen grabbers is usually not implemented.

    Collaboration tools require both ends to use the same software (and often the same version) so each party you need to communicate with must have the same infrastructure, or use a browser based system such as Google Docs.  If you think that Google Docs Security will be adequate for your business then see How secure is Google Docs for document protection?

“Safeguard is a cost-effective document security product that provides high security for our lesson plan books preventing them from being distributed and used without our knowledge.”

Making Document Security work for your organization

What can a document security solution do for you?

The important question in document security is, “What are you trying to achieve?”

  1. If you are just sending confidential documents or sensitive data from point to point and are confident that the recipient will not share these with others, then pure encryption is the right tool for you.
  2. If you need to allow document modification and track who has created/amended/authorized the content of a document, then Collaboration is for you.
  3. If you want to administer the continuing use of document content and ensure digital documents are not shared with others, then you need to pick a DRM solution.  Only DRM solutions provide the controls that you need to make sure your documents cannot be misused, either by staff or customers.

You need to be clear about what your objectives are for securing documents, otherwise you can find yourself with the wrong kind of document security solution and wasted investment.

Why Locklizard for Document Protection?

Document security systems & protection software

Locklizard provides two different document security solutions to protect your documents against unauthorized use, sharing, and misuse.  Unlike other document security solutions, Safeguard and Enterprise document security do not require you or your recipients to install a specific infrastructure (i.e. Microsoft RMS) to securely use or exchange documents.  Documents are protected with encryption and DRM controls and are protected on your local computer – they can be distributed just like any other file.  There are no insecure passwords (see why password protection is useless) or public keys to manage.

  Safeguard PDF Document Security

Safeguard PDF Security is document security software for PDF files.  You control who can access your documents, how long they can be used, where they can be used, and when.  With Safeguard PDF security, you can stop or limit printing, expire and revoke documents at any stage, stop screen grabbing, and watermark documents with dynamic data to identify users.  Documents are locked to authorized devices and are only ever decrypted in memory, so there are no unprotected files that users can distribute.  You can securely share or sell documents and control their use regardless of their location.

  Safeguard Enterprise Rights Management

Safeguard Enterprise is document protection for larger businesses and organizations.  It has all the document security features of Safeguard, plus you can track document use, lock user document access and use to specific countries and IP addresses (i.e. only an office location in the US), control sub-administrator access, flexibly check and transfer licenses, and create reports.

With both our document security systems, users view your secure documents using our FREE secure document viewers.  Users can either install a viewer or view secure documents in their browser or from a USB stick with our zero installation solutions.

  How to Secure Documents with Safeguard Document Security

How to protect documents securely

Select your PDF(s), then in Safeguard Secure PDF Writer, choose the document security controls you want to apply:

  1. Stop printing, allow printing, or limit the number of prints.
  2. Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages.  Dynamic variables replace actual user and system data when the document is viewed/printed so you only have to protect the document once for all users.
  3. Make the PDF expire on a fixed date, after a number of views, after a number of prints, or after a number of days from opening.
  4. Prevent screen grabbing (even from remote connections) applications and stop the use of Windows printscreen.
  5. Track document views and prints.
Safeguard’s default document security
  • Stops users from editing, copying, and pasting content
  • Locks PDF files to devices so they cannot be shared
  • There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove
  • Revoke documents at any time regardless of their location

Secure Documents without Passwords

Locklizard takes your document security seriously.  We provide total document protection with US Gov strength AES encryption and public key technology to ensure your important documents and sensitive information remains secure regardless of location.

  • Our Document Security products enable you to share documents securely without insecure passwords or plug-ins and enforce access, location, expiry, and usage controls.
  • Our DRM controls persistently protect your documents and enable you to revoke documents at any time regardless of where they are.
  • Unlike password-based document security systems, no keys are exposed to users or interfaces, and documents are only ever decrypted in memory – see our DRM technology.
  • Our easy-to-use administration system provides simple user and document management and unlike passwords, keys are transparently and securely managed for you.

See our customer testimonials or read our case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard to securely share and sell their documents.


How do I send documents securely via email/Gmail?

Both encryption and a DRM solution will work for this purpose, though only the latter will maintain protection after the document has reached and been decrypted by its recipient.  As encryption alone is not able to enforce editing, printing, or copying controls, you need to pair it with DRM if you want to stop sharing by authorized users.

If you’re using Gmail, don’t be tricked by the service’s ‘Confidential mode’.  Confidential mode is very misleading – it is not suitable protection for confidential documents or sensitive information, as all somebody needs to do to save and share an email is right-click the page and press ‘Save as’ or open it in a third-party email client.  It also doesn’t protect any attachments beyond adding an expiry date, which is pretty useless when the attachments can be downloaded and copied before that point.  See how secure is Gmail confidential mode.

How should I secure documents on my computer?

If you aren’t planning on sharing them, encryption is probably the best solution, as it’s simple and free.  Just bear in mind if using password-based encryption that it is only as secure as the password used – so choose a strong password.

For documents on your computer that others will be using or that you intend to share by other means, you’re better off with a PDF DRM solution.  This will ensure that the document can only be used on authorized devices and that users can’t print, screengrab, edit, or otherwise copy your document content.

How do I secure a Word document from editing?

One thing is for sure – don’t use Word’s in-built read-only or “password to modify” options.  As Microsoft itself admits, these are trivial to bypass and are only intended to stop accidental editing.  See why you should not password protect a Word doc.

A better idea is to save the Microsoft Word document as a PDF and protect it with a PDF DRM solution such as Locklizard.

Does Google Docs provide effective security?

No – users can easily bypass controls.  See Google Docs security.

How should I dispose of secure documents?

It is basically impossible to track down every instance of a document and delete it.  Instead, you should be looking at disposing of documents by simply revoking the ability to view (decrypt) them after a certain date.  As long as you can ensure that no unencrypted copies of the document were made before its revocation (through the use of DRM), then the document will cease to exist in a useful form.

Is watermarking a form of document security?

Watermarking isn’t typically considered a form of document security in itself, but it can act as a strong deterrent if it is implemented in the right way alongside digital rights management controls.  Locklizard allows you to add dynamic watermarks to a document that insert the reader’s name and other details at view/print time.  Because its DRM controls mean that watermarks cannot be removed, this stops users from sharing, as any leaks can be easily traced back to them.

Does Locklizard document protection prevent breaches of sensitive information?

Yes, using Locklizard is an effective way to help prevent a security breach or data breach.  Protected documents are encrypted to prevent unauthorized access and document use is tightly controlled so that authorized users cannot leak sensitive information.

Note that Locklizard only protect PDF files so you should still adhere to best practices for protecting other sensitive data, and look to employ other security methods such as DLP systems and firewalls to prevent hacker and cyberattacks.

Does Locklizard use password protection to protect documents?

No.  There are no passwords for users to enter, remove or share.  If you want to protect confidential and important documents then we do not recommend any form of password protection even if combined with other security measures such as 2FA.  This is because they are often easy to remove and share with others.

What encryption algorithm does Locklizard use for securing documents?

We encrypt documents with AES 256-bit encryption.  Encryption and decryption keys are securely and transparently managed.

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