So, you have invested hundreds of hours into creating your PowerPoint presentations, and now you realize you need to protect them. Though they are often overlooked, PowerPoint presentations carry plenty of information that could harm a business. Anything from revenue figures to acquisition prospects or client details may be presented at one point or another.
After the meeting concludes, the ppt or pptx file is often shared unprotected with the participants to recap, leading to their inevitable leak. Training companies that sell PowerPoint presentations as part of course materials also need to prevent them from being copied and shared with users that have not purchased them, or from being edited and sold on.
Below are the security options available to protect presentation slides (.pptx files) so you can prevent them from being shared, copied and edited.
Just as with any media, you have an inherent right to control the distribution of content inside your PowerPoint presentation (provided it was created by you). This extends to images, text, video, etc. However, legally holding the rights to a work does very little to prevent it from being copied and distributed without your permission. You can add a copyright symbol and disclaimer to your PowerPoint slides, but it’s likely it’ll just be ignored and can be easily removed. If copyright notices were an effective way of preventing unauthorized distribution, piracy would be virtually non-existent.
In other words, it’s down to you to enforce your copyright. One way to do so would be to take somebody to court every time they infringe on it, but that would be costly, time-consuming, and wouldn’t erase the harm they’d already done. It’s better to take measures to stop them from being able to do so in the first place.
Password Security in PowerPoint
Applying passwords to protect PPTX slides is the cheapest solution for PowerPoint Security (it is free with PowerPoint) but also the least secure.
Modern versions of PowerPoint feature two types of passwords:
Both have major weaknesses:
Here’s how easy it is to remove password protection in PowerPoint:
Like all Microsoft Office applications, PowerPoint uses a password as the encryption key to restrict access to the file. However, this does not mean that your file is safe. Passwords can be brute forced (often with the help of a list of common passwords). Short, uncomplex passwords can be removed in seconds and longer passwords with few symbols or numbers in minutes or hours.
The bigger risk of protecting presentations with a password is that an authorized user can share the document and its password with somebody who is not supposed to view it. This could be intentional, in the case of an internal leak, or accidentally, due to a social engineering attack, phishing attack, or insecure password storage. However, since PowerPoint’s copy protection is useless, any user that can open the file can also share it by printing it to a PDF, copy and pasting its content, or saving a new copy without a password.
It is really easy to remove edit restrictions in PowerPoint. Users can:
If you’d like to lock a PowerPoint from editing despite its drawbacks (perhaps you just want to stop accidental editing) here’s how:
You will see that even Microsoft warns you that this is not a secure feature and will not stop malicious users from editing or copying the document. Though it does restrict editing in PowerPoint, it only does so on a surface level.
Locking a PowerPoint file from editing by converting it to images
Before we move on to other protection solutions, it’s worth quickly clarifying claims that saving your PowerPoint presentation as images will permanently prevent editing.
You can’t easily edit or copy text from an image, right? Well, that’s not quite true. Optical character recognition tools can take the images and turn them right back into an editable PowerPoint file again.
Here’s an example of an image file and its OCR conversion:
With a few seconds extra work to match the fonts, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s not the original PowerPoint file.
It’s important to point out that PowerPoint read only mode doesn’t stop unauthorized editing, either. It can be toggled on and off by any user without a password and is just there to stop unintentional editing.
If you want to make a PowerPoint read only then you need to save it as a PDF and protect it with Locklizard Safeguard.
Microsoft IRM for PowerPoint Protection
Microsoft IRM (Information Rights Management) enables you to protect PowerPoint files without passwords.
However, this system has several drawbacks:
In conclusion, using Microsoft IRM for PowerPoint Security is only helpful in limited situations, and it does not completely protect PowerPoint presentations. Even Azure controls can be bypassed if a user has been given view access.
Locklizard PowerPoint Security – DRM Protection for PPT & PPTX files
Locklizard DRM can protect PowerPoint presentations that have been converted to PDF format. You can do this within PowerPoint by saving your PPTX as a PDF file. The advantage of converting PowerPoints to the Adobe PDF format is that you can easily prevent the editing and copying of content. It also means users of your PowerPoint slides don’t need to use insecure technology like passwords or plugins to view them.
Once your PowerPoint presentation has been converted to a PDF file, you can secure it using Safeguard PDF Security.
Safeguard PDF Security protects PowerPoint presentations from unauthorized:
Safeguard PDF Security automatically locks PowerPoint slides to authorized devices so they cannot be shared. You control who can access your protected PowerPoint slides, the amount of time they can be viewed, and whether they can be printed. And if you decide that you no longer want users to be able to view them, then you can instantly revoke access.
And with Safeguard Enterprise PDF DRM you can:
How to lock a PowerPoint from editing, copying, and printing with Safeguard DRM
The best way to lock a PowerPoint from editing, copying, printing, etc. is to not distribute it in the PowerPoint format at all. Currently, there just aren’t any good solutions to secure a PowerPoint presentation in its native format.
Though it is tempting to use something like Adobe Acrobat or Foxit PDF password protection, these have the exact same problem as PowerPoint password protection – the modify permissions are easily removed and the document open protection does not prevent unauthorized sharing.
The process of locking a PowerPoint presentation file to prevent it from being copied/edited is a two-step one: save to PDF, followed by protection in Safeguard Secure PDF Writer.
Note that converting a PowerPoint to a PDF will naturally remove its functionality as an interactive presentation.
Once you have converted your PowerPoint to PDF, protecting it with Safeguard is a simple matter:
Creating a protected presentation
Encrypting a PowerPoint without passwords using Safeguard PDF DRM
Safeguard Admin System
For a more detailed guide see how to add security to a PDF.
PowerPoint watermarks – are they effective?
No editing controls are going to stop a user from taking a picture of their screen with their phone or (if printing is enabled) scanning a printed copy and sharing it. This is where watermarks come in. However, just like editing restrictions, all watermarks are not made equal.
The strength of your watermarks depends on the strength of your copy protection and editing restrictions. If your editing restrictions are easily removed then so is your watermark – the user can just delete the watermark in PowerPoint. As we’ve already covered, PowerPoint’s editing restrictions are useless, so PowerPoint watermarks are too.
Microsoft suggests that you add a PowerPoint draft watermark like so:
The problem with this method is that a user can remove it by simply editing the master slides again once they remove protected view from the PowerPoint.
The better method is to add the watermark, save the PowerPoint as a PDF, and then protect it with PDF DRM. Or, even better, add a watermark to PowerPoint using a PDF DRM solution so that you can insert user-identifying information.
Using one of the methods above (How to edit a protected PowerPoint presentation) will let you edit a protected PowerPoint presentation, after which you can remove the watermark in the master slides interface:
Safeguard PDF DRM allows you to add watermarks to your slides that are irremovable and dynamic. You can protect the PPTX file once and benefit from watermarks that automatically insert the user’s name and email address when they open it. This significantly reduces the workload while greatly increasing the stakes of sharing a document via means not covered by editing and copying controls.
Here’s how to add a watermark to a PowerPoint that has been saved as a PDF:
Protecting PDF with watermarks
Select the “View Watermarks” tab and then check the “Add Text Watermark” option.
How to insert a permanent watermark in PowerPoint with Safeguard Secure PDF Writer
Type in the watermark text you want to use (e.g. a confidential notice or copyright disclaimer) and customize it with dynamic variables by selecting the “Editing” button. For example, you might want to add the text “This document is copyright protected and is only authorized to be viewed by %UserName% %Email%”. When a user views the presentation their name and email address will appear where you have inserted the dynamic variables.
The “Position” and “Opacity” sliders are particularly important for customizing where you want the copyright watermark to be displayed and how transparent it should appear. Pressing the monitor icon next to the position dropdown will allow you to adjust the precise position of the watermark on your page. You can also adjust the font type, color and size and other formatting options by pressing the “Aa” button.
Below is an example of how the text watermark is displayed when a user views the protected PDF PowerPoint.
Copyright text watermark displayed in Safeguard Secure PDF Viewer
In the “View Watermarks” Image Watermark tab, check the ‘Add Image watermark’ box.
Adding a confidential image watermark in Safeguard Secure PDF Writer
Then browse for the image watermark you want to add. We recommend that you add a large watermark such as a background watermark so that it remains visible throughout the page as in the example below.
Confidential watermark image
You can change the opacity slider to make sure it remains unobtrusive.
Below is an example of how the image watermark is displayed when a user views the protected presentation:
Confidential image watermark displayed in Safeguard Secure PDF Viewer
If you want to allow printing then you can also add a different watermark (or the same one if you prefer) when a user prints the protected PowerPoint presentation.
Customizing your print watermark independently of the digital one is generally a good idea as it can enable you to distinguish from viewed and printed copies. You can of course apply print only watermarks if you prefer, so that a watermark is only displayed when the PowerPoint is printed.
Open the “Print Watermarks” tab and adjust its options.
Adding a print watermark in Safeguard Secure PDF Writer
Follow the same process as for view watermarks, adding copyright disclaimer text and / or a confidential image to your PowerPoint content.
Press the “Publish” button at the bottom of the PDF Writer window.
Of course, before doing so, you should ensure that any other protection controls you want to apply to your presentation are enabled. By default, users cannot edit, copy or paste content, print, or take screenshots using screen capture tools.
On pressing “Publish”, the file will be encrypted and saved to your output location as a .PDC file.
Expiration in PowerPoint – is it possible?
It is not possible to set a PowerPoint to expire without the help of third-party applications or IRM services. Though there is an add-in called PPTExpire, it has been in development for years and is yet to release to the public. Plugins of this sort also typically pose a security risk and do not work as advertised.
One option is to upload your PowerPoint to OneDrive and share a link with an expiration date. However, this will give you far less protection than you anticipate. Browsers are unable to effectively enforce anti-copying controls because they just do not have enough control over the operating system.
In fact, in our testing, OneDrive even offered handy “print to PDF” and “Download” buttons so that users can easily make a copy of your PowerPoint which won’t expire!
Clearly, then, you’re going to have to use something else to make a PowerPoint expire. We believe Safeguard PDF is the best option.
In Safeguard Secure PDF Writer, choose the expiry options you want to apply:
You can select multiple expiry options – a fixed date and a number of days from first use, a number of views and/or prints. Whichever option is reached first will cause the PDF to expire.
Expiry days, views, and prints are allocated on a user basis – so the same PDF file can expire at different times for individual users.
Once you have chosen your PowerPoint expiration date options, press the Publish button.
The best way to secure your PowerPoint presentation when sharing
For total PowerPoint security with DRM controls, use Safeguard PDF Security to protect PowerPoint presentations. Prevent unauthorized distribution and use, while locking the PowerPoint from editing, sharing, copying, printing, and screenshotting. Add permanent watermarks that identify users, and automatically expire presentations after a period of time or use. Revoke access anytime.
Locklizard uses US government-strength AES encryption, public key technology, DRM, and licensing controls to ensure your presentations remain protected regardless of their location.