revoke individual user access to single, multiple, or all PDF files
revoke access automatically after a number of views and/or prints
Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages. Dynamic variables (date/time, user name, company name, email address) are replaced with actual user and system data when the protected PDF document is displayed and/or printed.
You only have to protect a document once in order to customize it for multiple users.
Locks PDF files to specific devices so they cannot be shared
Revoke PDFs at any time regardless of where they reside
There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove
Why PDF password protection is useless
From a business standpoint, password protecting a PDF with Adobe Acrobat might seem like an efficient choice. You want to get the most value out of an existing Acrobat license rather than investing in a separate PDF protection solution. This is dangerous thinking, however. Using ineffective password protection will lose you far more in the long run. Here’s why:
Users can just share the PDF password and thus your password ‘protected’ PDFs with others.
It’s easy to remove password protection from a PDF with password recovery software.
Adobe PDF permissions (copy, print, editing prevention) are also trivial to remove.
Once a user has the password, they can decrypt a PDF and do whatever they like with it.
These critical flaws in PDF password protection will sooner or later lead to leaks of your documents. Even worse, after they password protect a PDF, employees will think it’s safe. This makes them more likely to share files they wouldn’t otherwise – ones that are sensitive and would damage your reputation and bottom line.
This is because permissions passwords rely on a system of trust. The PDF editing software is the only thing that enforces the controls, and many third-party solutions decide not to, or do not have the resources to do so. This provides various routes to unlock the PDF.
Removing password protection from a PDF with an online tool
Using an online tool is the most convenient way to unlock a PDF for the majority of users. Because these tools market themselves as a way to unlock PDFs that you have forgotten the password to, they’re entirely legal.
Here’s an example:
All you have to do is upload your file to one of the many online PDF removal tools and press a PDF convert or remove button to strip its permissions.
Removing password protection from a PDF with the Microsoft Word convert to PDF tool
You can also unlock a PDF that uses password protection using Microsoft Word. When you try to open a PDF in Word, it will automatically ask if you want it to perform a PDF conversion so that it can open it.
Pressing “OK” to the PDF conversion will open it in Microsoft Word, where you can edit it to your heart’s content, or convert it to PDF again and modify it in PDF editing software.
Though the Conversion to PDF can take some time on large documents, it usually only takes a minute or two.
Safeguard’s PDF protection provides many security features and in-built restrictions to protect PDFs, and unlike Adobe restrictions, these cannot be removed. Most of the basic protection features are applied by default (stop PDF copying, editing, screenshots, etc.) whereas others you can change to suit your requirements (allow or stop PDF printing, enforce expiry, etc.). All of these security restrictions stop PDF files from being shared with unauthorized users, control how they are used, and how long for. A list of these PDF restrictions are provided below.
Safeguard does not use passwords to protect PDFs since users can easily remove password protection from a PDF. Instead PDFs are protected using individual encryption keys that are securely and transparently relayed to authorized devices from a web server and stored encrypted in a keystore on the local device. The keystore is locked to individual devices so it cannot be copied and moved elsewhere.
Safeguard’s secure PDF Viewer is required to open secured PDF files. This can either be installed on a device (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android), run from a USB stick (completely offline zero installation solution), or accessed via a web browser (zero installation). When a user opens an encrypted PDF document, the Viewer checks to see if the decryption key is available. If it is not present then the Viewer checks with the administration server to see if the user is authorized to view the PDF. If they are, the decryption key is transparently relayed to the client and the protected document opens. DRM controls are enforced by the Viewer software.
Stop PDF Printing / Protect PDFs from printing
Safeguard protects PDFs from printing – it disables printing of PDF documents by default so you do not have to apply any additional controls to stop a PDF being printed. As well as using Safeguard to stop PDF printing for specific (or all) documents, you can stop printing on a per-user basis. This lets you disable it for some users but allow it for others using the same protected document (you don’t have to distribute a new document with different protections for each user). Documents can be secured with zero prints available (to stop PDF being printed) and then individual users can be granted print rights by altering the number of prints available.
If you allow printing, you can limit the number of times a PDF can be printed by each user to stop users distributing high-quality copies of documents to others. You can also enforce black & white or grayscale printing of color documents. Document watermarking is recommended if you allow printing to discourage photocopies from being made – see PDF watermarking below.
Safeguard’s PDF protection disables print to PDF and other file printers so that if printing is allowed, users cannot print to PDF files, XPS, or any other file format.
Stop PDF Copying / Protect PDF against copying & distribution
How can you stop PDF copying since anyone can easily copy a digital file?
The important issue is not whether you can stop a PDF from being copied, but whether the recipient of the copied file can use it. If you encrypt a PDF with a password, you can give a copy of the PDF to another user along with the password and they can use the file. So, the protection provided is worthless – a useful copy was made that could be used by others. Safeguard effectively stops PDF copying. The protected file is of no use to another user without the decryption key required to open it. Decryption keys are stored encrypted in a keystore which is locked to the device it was registered on – so only authorized users can open protected PDFs.
Authorized users must be prevented from saving the PDF in an unprotected format (so no editing or saving options should be made available) and unprotected files should never be stored on disk in temporary files where they could be easily recovered. For additional security the PDF Reader should prevent screen grabbing, and document owners should disable printing so photocopies cannot be made of printed documents.
To protect PDF files from content copying see the section entitled “Protect PDF against content & text copying”.
Preventing Saving PDF / Save As
Unlike Adobe Acrobat Reader, Safeguard’s PDF protection has no ‘Save’ or ‘Save As’ functionality in its secure PDF Viewer. The only documents that can be copied are secured PDFs, and they are useless to unauthorized recipients as they need the correct decryption keys to open them.
Because ‘Save As’ options are not made available, Safeguard’s Secure PDF Viewers automatically stop PDF conversion to Word and other file formats. Users cannot convert protected PDFs (PDC files) to Word using external applications either, as the files are encrypted and can only be processed by Safeguard Secure PDF Viewers.
Disable or Prevent PDF Download
Stopping PDFs from being downloaded (the ability to disable or prevent PDF download) is very similar to preventing copying in principle. People think that if you allow users to view secure PDF documents online then they are more secure because they cannot be manipulated on a device outside of the ‘secure environment’. You might want to think again. The way every browser works is by caching information to disk. And browser environments are possibly the least secure of all because if no software is installed on a device, you have no control over the actual environment (so stopping screen grabbing and printing to file drivers is not possible). See Secure Downloads for additional information on stopping downloads and copying.
Most secure data room systems disable PDF downloads because the downloaded PDF files contain NO protection apart from a watermark that can be easily removed in a PDF editor. To stop the browser caching the PDF on the user’s system, they convert your PDF files to images when you upload them – so the document is no longer a PDF file but consists of just raster images. However, this provides a poor user experience since images are slow to display and print, and features such as search, bookmarks, and annotations are unlikely to be available. If you allow the user to download the PDF it is then converted back to a PDF file again. Further, users can still screenshot the document and convert it back to text with an OCR tool.
However, if you encrypt a PDF file and the user does not have the decryption key to use it, it does not matter if they can download it. They won’t be able to open it anyway. And if you apply DRM and licensing controls then authorized users (those given access) will be restricted as to what they can do with downloadable PDF files (for example not being able to share them with others). So, the ability to download a PDF file does not make it any less secure – in fact, many online PDF Viewers that ‘prevent downloads’ are less secure since they decrypt PDF files on the server and deliver (download) them to the client in an unprotected form.
You cannot stop PDF files from being forwarded or emailed to others, but you can stop the recipients from using those files – see ‘Stop PDF Copying’ above.
Many cloud-based systems claim to stop PDF forwarding. However, users can share their login credentials with others to give them access to your documents anyway. If a system uses document links, then there is nothing stopping an authorized user from emailing those links to other users along with the login information. Some systems state that they lock PDF files to email addresses or domains but that just means that you have to login using that email address or any email address that belongs to the domain. It does not stop PDF forwarding since authorized users can still give their login credentials to others. That is also true of 2FA codes which provide little extra protection.
If you are the document publisher, you can email secure PDF files to users knowing that if they fall into the wrong hands they cannot be opened. If a secure PDF is accidentally forwarded to the wrong person they will not be able to use it in any way. See also stop copying, downloading and emailing.
Stop PDF Editing / Lock PDF so it cannot be edited / Block PDF from editing
Adobe Acrobat has ‘security’ features built-in that let you stop PDF editing (restrict editing PDF or stop PDF modifying), printing, and saving. To enable these features in Acrobat (and block a PDF from editing) you have to apply a permissions password to protect the PDF. The problem, however, is that the password you set (no matter how long) is completely useless. It is no more effective than putting a watermark on the document that says ‘Please do not edit or copy this PDF’. This is because there are numerous free and paid for PDF password remover programs on the internet that will remove Adobe Acrobat permissions passwords in seconds. Adobe restrictions do not really disable editing in PDF files since PDF restrictions can be easily removed by users.
Safeguard stops PDF editing / modifying by default – it will lock a PDF so it cannot be edited and blocks all forms of content copying. No option can be enabled in our Secure PDF Viewers for users to edit PDF files or copy/paste PDF content, thus protecting PDF files from editing. By disabling the editing of PDF files you also stop content / text copying. Safeguard Secure PDF Viewer also disables editing of PDF forms – so form content (fields) cannot be edited or modified in any way , but form fields can still be filled in – see secure PDF forms.
Users can still add comments to PDF files (if you allow this option), but PDF content is always protected from editing, ensuring that your original content cannot be altered in any way.
Protect PDF against content & text copying
In some PDF protection products, if editing is disabled you can still highlight and copy text. Safeguard stops users from copying text and other content within a document – there is no copy-paste option available and text cannot be highlighted for selection so it cannot be copied and pasted.
Stop Screenshots / Protect PDF from screen capture
Many PDF DRM products claim to stop screenshots, but, if you look closely, mainly claim to prevent Windows print screen. There are many free screen grabbing or screen capture applications available that users can download to easily bypass this restriction.
Safeguard stops screenshots from being taken by both Windows and third-party software applications. It uses many different methods including a screen mask that is overlaid over the secure PDF document if the mouse cursor is moved to another active application. No PDF DRM product however can stop all screenshots (users can just take photographs of the screen) so it is recommended that document publishers apply dynamic watermarks as a copying deterrent. If a user’s name and email are displayed on a screenshot, they will probably be less likely to share it with others (especially on the internet where they can be easily identified).
PDF Expiry and expiring PDF files
Safeguard enables document publishers to expire PDF files so they can no longer be used after a certain amount of time. The following options are available:
expire documents on a fixed date
expire documents after a number of days
expire documents after a number of opens or views
expire documents after a number of prints
These options can be used together so that you can enter a number of days/views/prints and a fixed date and whatever occurs first causes the document to expire. You might, for example, want a user to be able to use your documents for a 15-day trial period, but have those documents expire on a fixed date regardless of whether the trial period is used or not.
Expiry dates can be changed on the administration system at any time and document publishers can increase the number of views/prints available for each user.
Safeguard lets you revoke PDF files instantly (when the document is set to check with the administration system each time it is opened), or specific users (so that all documents they have access to become inaccessible). If you have created PDF files that only check with the administration system every n days, then PDF revocation will only take place once a check has occurred. With Safeguard, PDF files can be revoked no matter where they are located. You can also revoke access to multiple PDF files instantly and group documents into publications to make revocation easier for common groups of documents.
No DRM system is foolproof. Even if screenshots are prevented, users can take photographs of the screen using a camera. Similarly, if you allow printing, users can print and scan back in printed documents.
To discourage users from making copies of protected documents, you can add dynamic PDF watermarks to viewed and/or printed content. By using dynamic variables, you only have to protect a PDF once for all users (rather than watermarking and protecting each document individually for each user in Adobe Acrobat) as user data (name, company, email, date/time, etc.) is inserted at view/print time.
Safeguard’s PDF protection lets you position dynamic PDF watermarks anywhere on the page (including custom locations) and choose your own font and color. You can use different watermarks for viewed and printed documents and both text and image watermarks are supported. PDF watermarks can be displayed behind content (so they are less obtrusive to the user), and you can choose not to display watermarks on the first page of a document if you have a cover image that you want to leave unmarked.
Lock PDFs to country locations, domains and IP addresses
In addition to Safeguard’s ability to lock PDFs to individual machines (so that they cannot be used on unauthorized devices), you can lock PDFs to specific countries, a domain or an IP address range.
This is done at the user level or a global level (for all users). In this way, you can easily restrict all users to viewing secured PDFs from say your office location in the US. This is particularly useful if users have laptops that they are allowed to take home – locked PDF files can then only be viewed at the office and not when the user is at home or at other locations where they could be shown to others.
Track PDF use
Safeguard Enterprise PDF DRM lets you track PDF use so you can see when users have viewed and/or printed your PDF files.
This is useful if you want to check whether a particular user has viewed a document yet – especially if they claim to have not received it. Tracking PDF files requires users to be connected to the internet since a record has to be stored on a cloud server when a PDF file is viewed/printed. You may therefore only want to track PDF use for specific documents otherwise users will have to be constantly online.
Secure PDF Hosting & Secure PDF Distribution
Locklizard provides secure PDF hosting with Web Publisher (secured PDF files are stored on a cloud server either hosted by Locklizard or yourselves). Alternatively, you can distribute PDF files securely as you would any other file.
Many providers offer secure PDF hosting or enable you to secure PDF files online, but these are not as secure as you may think. Most cloud-based PDF DRM systems for example offer ‘secure PDF hosting’ but protect PDF documents online on a cloud server. Your unprotected PDF files are uploaded to a server where they are stored, encrypted and DRM controls applied, before being stored again in protected format. This may be fine for ebooks but what about sensitive and confidential company documents? Do you really want them sitting on a server in an unprotected format for any length of time? Safeguard’s PDF protection cloud-based PDF DRM system generates secure PDF files locally (encryption and DRM controls applied) and then uploads them to a cloud server so they can be viewed by users in a browser. Your PDF files can never be compromised by server vulnerabilities as they are encrypted locally, uploaded via SSL, and stored encrypted on the server.
If you prefer to host secure PDF files yourself then you can distribute them just like any other file (email, USB, web site download, etc.). Safeguard generates PDC files (secure PDF format) that can only be opened with our secure PDF Viewers. It does not matter who has access to your secure PDF files because they are encrypted and can only be viewed by authorized users. So, you can make them freely available via a web site for download without worrying about password access controls.
For completely offline secure PDF distribution you can protect PDF files to USB sticks using Safeguard PDF Portable. This enables you to distribute our secure PDF Windows Viewer, secure PDF documents, and a keystore on USB sticks for offline viewing. Additional secured PDF documents and decryption keys can be added at a later date by authorized users when they become available without the USB stick having to be returned to you.
The administration system (where you create users and authorize document usage) can be hosted by Locklizard or on your own servers. This is separate from the protection of PDF files (which is done locally on your computer), so you have greater control over the secure distribution of your documents and who has access to them.
Batch PDF Protect with command line
Safeguard enables you to batch protect PDF files using a command line tool. Using this PDF security tool, multiple administrators can protect PDFs in a consistent manner, apply PDF protection quickly, copy to multiple folders, and schedule PDF protection based on certain events or a date/time. Using the command line, administrators don’t have to learn what DRM security controls to apply – they just run a batch file.
Safeguard also lets you automate administrative functions (adding users, assigning document access) using our ecommerce API. This enables companies to delegate admin controls by creating simple interfaces where specific functions are made available. You can also automate user creation and document access after a purchase has been made online (e.g. a secured PDF ebook).
Why Locklizard is the best PDF Protection for business
Protect PDF files without passwords or certificates
Locklizard provides the best PDF protection for businesses. We provide total PDF protection using US Gov strength AES encryption and public key technology to encrypt PDF documents, and ensure your PDF files remain protected no matter where they reside.
You can certainly password protect a PDF for free.
Whether that file is really “protected”, however, is debatable. As the password can be easily removed it offers very little real protection.
This holds true regardless of whether you use a free or paid tool.
Can you edit a protected PDF?
Not if it’s protected with Locklizard Safeguard DRM.
Adobe password protection, however, can be removed in seconds, leaving the user able to modify the unprotected PDF.
How do you remove protection from a PDF?
You can remove password protection from a PDF quite easily.
Any number of freely available tools will strip the permissions password.
If you have been sent a password to open a PDF, you can enter this to instantly remove it.
The open password takes longer to crack if you don’t know it, but this can still be achieved with paid or free tools.
Locklizard PDF protection, meanwhile, cannot be removed.
How do you print a password protected PDF?
To print a PDF with a password you just have to remove its protection first using one of the methods above.
This only takes a minute, so long as you have the document’s open password.
Can you view Locklizard PDFs online?
You can only view Locklizard PDFs online (i.e. in the browser) if the publisher allows it.
Generally, it is recommended that publishers who do so disable printing and accept that even a secure browser viewer like Locklizard’s will not be able to provide the same protection against screenshotting and manipulation vs an installed viewer.
How can you prevent a PDF from being downloaded & printed?
Various online solutions claim to prevent downloading and printing of PDF files but are easy to bypass. MicroSoft for example enable you to block downloads for view-only files in Sharepoint and OneDrive. “When you select ‘Block download’, people who access the file you shared won’t see options to download, print, or copy the file. They can only view the files on the web, and won’t be able to open them in desktop or mobile apps”. The security however can be bypassed – all a user needs is view access to remove the RMS protection.
A more secure solution is to allow downloading of PDFs but control who can access them. That is what Locklizard do. Users can download PDFs for offline use, and these files are locked to their device so they cannot be shared. You can prevent printing or allow limited and degraded prints watermarked with user information – this can discourage users creating and distributing scanned PDFs from printouts.
Download PDF protection software
Download PDF protection software that uses US Government strength encryption and digital rights management controls to copy protect PDF files without using insecure passwords or plugins.
Protect PDF files from editing, copying, printing, sharing and unauthorized distribution. Lock PDF files to individual devices and locations so they cannot be shared.
We needed to deliver e-book versions of our handbooks while not compromising on security and digital rights. Safeguard PDF security is easy to use and intuitive.
The implementation was painless and we now have a greener, more secure way of distributing training manuals.
Locklizard’s PDF protection is exactly as described – the features are highly effective and I would give it 5 stars.
I would recommend Locklizard to others - their security is simple to use and fit for purpose. It meets common needs of businesses who have information they want to protect.
We would be happy to recommend Locklizard to any company needing a flexible way to secure PDF files.
Safeguard PDF Security has provided us with a very workable solution for sharing of information in a secure fashion. The support has been excellent and very accommodating.
We can cut accounts for a user five minutes before his class starts and he is ready to go. Happy smiling customer, while we still have security and personalized watermarking.
I have immense respect for the product and Locklizard provide great customer satisfaction and service.
We would recommend Safeguard to other companies for its security, cost and ease of use. It does what we expected it to do and more.
Ease of use is a bonus and the implementation was very easy. The product manual is excellent and Locklizard staff are very accommodating.
We sell a highly valued educational product in an open and competitive market so it was important to ensure we had effective security to protect our digital rights.
We highly recommend Locklizard - a professional company with a competitive and professional PDF Security product.
We would absolutely recommend both Locklizard as a company, and Safeguard PDF Security. It has transformed our study materials to the next level.
Not only did this increase sales, but we also believe that it has increased our customers’ ability to learn, which is even more important!
We would recommend Locklizard Safeguard to other companies that need to protect PDF reports. Customers have found the process of accessing the protected documents to be seamless.
Implementation was easy and technical support has been very responsive to requests for help.
Our company would without reservation recommend Locklizard. Their document DRM software opens up delivery of our new products in a timely fashion while knowing that the content will remain secure.
The return on investment to our company has been immediately evident.
We use Safeguard to make sure that documents cannot be opened outside our local network or from a unauthorized computer in order to copy or print the documents.
It is the most feature rich, affordable, & simple to use PDF security product on the market.
Safeguard PDF Security is simple to administer and meets our needs, consistently delivering secured manuals to our customers with ease.
Return on investment has been elimination of many man hours, printing resources and postage – it is estimated that costs decreased by 50% or more.
We would really recommend Safeguard PDF Security to every publishing company for managing ePubs or e-books securely. It is easy to secure PDF files and simple to distribute them to our authorized customers only.
Locklizard also provides a good customer support experience.
The ROI for us is incalculable. We have the security of knowing that our proprietary documents are secure. This is the entire value of our company.
I would most certainly recommend your PDF security product and already have. The ease of implementation was surprising.
We can now sell our manuals without the need to print them first, saving time, money and helping safeguard the environment.
We would recommend Safeguard PDF DRM – it is the perfect solution to sell and send e-documents securely whilst making sure someone cannot copy them.
We would recommend Locklizard to other companies without hesitation.
Their PDF DRM products provide a manageable, cost effective way to protect intellectual investment and they are always looking for ways to improve them. Moreover, their staff provide an excellent level of support.
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