PDF File Security – secure PDF files to stop printing, copying, sharing
How to secure a PDF file using Safeguard PDF Security
Securing PDF files with Safeguard is very simple.
Right-click on your PDFs in Windows File Explorer and select the menu option ‘Make Secure PDF’.
Securing PDFs with Safeguard is more secure than Adobe password protection and provides total PDF security regardless of where your PDF files reside.
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Secure PDF files – stop misuse
Stop unauthorized access and sharing
Control use – stop copying, editing, printing, etc.
Lock PDFs to devices, countries, locations
User and PDF expiry, revoke files at any time
Secure PDFs with Safeguard PDF security
To secure a PDF
In Safeguard Secure PDF Writer, choose the PDF security options you want to apply:
Give access to all authorized users, specific users, or those with access to publications (e.g. a training course).
Stop printing, allow printing or limit the number of prints.
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.
Make the PDF expire on a specific date, after a number of views, after a number of prints, or after a number of days from opening.
Allow or stop screen grabbing applications (even from remote connections), prevent use of Windows print screen.
Log document views and prints.
Safeguard’s default PDF security
Stops users editing, copying and pasting text and images
Locks PDF files to specific devices so they cannot be shared with others
There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove
You can revoke PDFs at any time regardless of where they reside
DID YOU KNOW?
You should NOT use passwords to secure PDFs
users can share passwords and thus ‘secure’ PDFs with others
Adobe PDF permissions (stop copy, print etc.) can be removed without using any tools
once the user has the password they can unprotect the PDF and do what they like with it
“We purchased Safeguard PDF Security to secure PDF files and control access and un-authorised use. We now have greater control on who/how our material is accessed when distributed around the world, including limiting the number of prints and using expiry controls to manage subscriptions.
We would recommend Locklizard to other companies.
Safeguard PDF Security does what it says – it provides a manageable, cost effective uncomplicated way to secure PDF documents, your investment.”
PDF security & methods used to secure PDF documents
What is PDF file security?
While PDF encryption is used to secure PDF documents so they can be securely sent to others, you may need to enforce other controls over the use of your documents to prevent authorized users using documents inappropriately. For example, you may want to stop users copying text or printing PDFs.
So PDF file security is delivered by of a combination of different features – encryption, controls (digital rights management controls), etc. – that are relevant to the overall document controls you wish to achieve.
PDF file security can consist of the following components:
The most commonly used secure encryption algorithm for PDF encryption is AES 256 bit (US Government strength)
PDF copy protection is implemented through the use of PDF encryption. It is almost impossible to prevent people from copying files – after all, everything on a computer has been copied in order to use it. But if a file is encrypted, even if it is copied, if the recipient does not know what the decryption key is then they cannot use the file even though they have a copy.
PDF Restrictions give you limited controls over what an authorized user can do with a document. In Adobe Acrobat they are called PDF Permissions and enable you to restrict editing, printing, or copying text.
To encrypt a PDF you need to use a key. The most common method is using a password as the key. However, PDF Password Protection has serious issues and is not recommended if you want to secure PDF files from unauthorized use and distribution.
Passwords can be shared around – they have to be sent in readable form so users can copy and forward them to anyone
The password interface has to be exposed so can be readily attacked by password recovery programs – see Removing PDF Passwords
Strong passwords are difficult to set up and use so weak passwords are normally implemented instead
You have to manage a list of passwords if you use different passwords for each PDF document which can be complicated
Public Key Technology or PKI
PKI has two major uses. It is used to:
protect the secret decryption key, preventing the user or attacker from finding it
create a digital signature which establishes that the document has not been altered and verifies the sender
Public Key Technology is much more secure than password protection – the key is not exposed to the user so cannot be attacked. In addition there are no passwords to manage or for users to forget.
Licensing controls allow you to establish policies, watermarks, and restrictions that are unique to each user.
You can distribute a single document that has different license conditions depending on the user. For example:
User A is allowed to print document A but user B is not
User A is allowed to view document A for 15 days but user B can view it forever
You can revoke any access to a specific document for an individual user(s) or all users
Licensing controls also enable you to lock PDFs to specific devices and log document use.
Proprietary security mechanisms
These are used to control Operating System specific behaviour such as:
preventing screen grabbing and third party screen grabbers from taking screenshots
stopping printing to file drivers (i.e. Adobe PDF files)
preventing temporary files being created that store unprotected copies of a PDF
Additional security implementations can be used to:
identify unique machine information to enable locking of PDF documents to devices, IP address(es) and locations
store decryption keys securely and prevent them from being shared
Securing PDF files
Why would I want to secure my PDF documents?
There are many reasons why you would want to secure your PDF documents using PDF file security. The main reason however is that you need protection for your PDF documents beyond what encryption provides. The most likely reason being is that you want to have some control of your PDF documents once they have been decrypted (for example whether a recipient can copy text from your document). This may be because the information is privileged for a certain group of people or you are selling information that you do not want to be distributed at your cost.
So how can I secure my PDF documents?
Well, at the basic level you could use a product like Adobe Acrobat. However, it is wise to bear in mind that there are tools freely available on the Internet that remove the copy controls you have applied literally within seconds. This is also true of other secure PDF products that use passwords or plugins to Adobe Acrobat.
If you are serious about protecting your documents then you will probably want to purchase a PDF file security product that is not password based – read PDF password protection to see why – and uses US Government strength encryption.
Also see PDF Security Issues which covers flaws and cracks in various PDF Security implementations.
Weak PDF Security Implementations
There is no point in applying PDF security to secure PDF files if it can be easily bypassed or removed.
PDF password protection has been the traditional way to impose PDF digital rights management controls on PDF document users, but it has a number of drawbacks. One problem in password based PDF file security is that a number of suppliers provide tools for removing the protection controls on the basis that you are the document owner and you have ‘forgotten’ how to use a document that is yours. The weaker the password the sooner it is broken.
In Adobe Acrobat, a number of additional controls (PDF permissions) such as stopping printing, editing, and copying text, can be added when you secure a PDF file with a password. However, because the Adobe Security Handler design is poorly implemented – How the Adobe PDF Security Handler works – it means no matter how strong the password used to secure the PDF, the PDF restrictions can be removed in seconds. So reliance on some of the controls being provided may not be as wise at it seems – they are totally useless.
Some PDF Security products use plugins to secure PDFs from unauthorized use and to control what users can do with documents. However, plug-ins may (and often do) act in conflict with each other, and other plug-ins may be used to compromise the security of the PDF security plug-in.
Also, the Adobe PDF Reader was not designed to operate in a secure manner, and it is not possible, as a plug-in, to control what the application can do, so any ability to compromise the application will also compromise the security. See PDF Security Plug-ins.
PDF file security is achieved when the different components work together correctly. So if some of the controls are implemented by one supplier and others by another you need to make sure that the combinations work together.
Locklizard PDF Security cannot be compromised by plug-ins because we use our own Secure PDF Viewers that prevent plug-ins from being loaded. We supply and control the environment so that no vulnerabilities can be introduced.
Web based PDF security systems
Web based PDF security systems, such as those used for secure online document sharing, may seem convenient but use passwords that can be shared with other users. Since no software is installed on the device they cannot control Operating System behaviour so users can screen grab content and print to file drivers (e.g. Adobe PDF) if printing is allowed.
Strong web based PDF security systems let you control the number of times a user can be logged in simultaneously, and enable you to lock document use to specific locations so that secure PDF files cannot be readily shared.
Safeguard PDF Security gives you complete control over your PDF files, preventing unauthorized copying, modifying, printing and distribution. Securely share or sell PDF files by controlling who can access them and enforcing how long they can be used, no matter where they reside.
Safeguard Enterprise is a PDF security solution for the larger organization.
In addition to the PDF security features of Safeguard, you can:
log document use
lock PDFs to specific countries and IP addresses on a user basis (i.e. only let user x view PDFs from an office location in the US)
enable flexible license checking and transfer
run reports (e.g. your most accessed documents and by whom)
Users view protected PDF files using our FREE secure PDF viewers. These can be installed on a device, or users can view secure documents in their browser or from a USB stick with our zero installation solutions.
Why Locklizard for PDF Security?
US Gov Strength PDF Security – Secure PDF files without passwords
Locklizard takes your document protection seriously.
Our DRM PDF Security products enable you to share documents securely without insecure passwords or plug-ins, and enforces access, location, expiry, and usage controls. Revoke PDFs at any time regardless of where they are.
Our DRM technology ensures your secure PDF files remain safe no matter where your documents reside.