secure document sharing

Secure Document Sharing

Secure External Document Sharing – securely share & distribute PDFs

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Using Document DRM for secure document sharing & external document distribution

In any organization, there is a need to be able to share information across departments, across functions, with resellers and agents, and even with competitors and third parties such as legal advisers.  But the decision about who gets to ‘share’ information remains with the owner, the corporate body, and not with the recipients.

The need for internal and external secure file sharing or the ability send documents securely by email, requires a flexible series of DRM controls.  Apart from being able to restrict the users who can open a secured document to stop them from being able to pass it on, organizations may need to restrict the location(s) it can be used in or prevent it from being printed or used after a specific date.  Some users may only be allowed to use documents whilst connected to the internal network.

This is the essential difference between ‘collaboration’ and ‘sharing.’  In collaboration, control of document content may be devolved, even to the point where recipients can choose who else may use (and change) secured documents.  In sharing, document content is available to authorized recipients to use, but not to edit, distribute or re-distribute.

In sharing documents securely or distributing documents securely for either internal or external use, decisions must be made about who may receive which documents, and where they may use them, and for how long.  Secure, external document sharing can be enforced with both device and location locking to ensure only third parties you have authorized can view your confidential or sensitive business documents.

How Locklizard enables businesses to share documents securely

Locklizard provides a number of security controls to stop document copying and sharing.  Unlike secure data rooms where security can be bypassed or removed, Locklizard enforces both online and offline controls regardless of where your documents are located.

  • Stop documents being shared & distributed without authorization

    With password-based systems such as Adobe PDF password protection, users can share files along with their password.  It does not ensure secure external document sharing or enable secure document distribution, since it cannot stop unauthorized users from accessing documents.

    Locklizard Safeguard uses public key technology with a secure and secret key transfer mechanism so that keys are never exposed to users and interfaces.  Document keys are locked to authorized devices within a keystore – if the keystore is copied to another device, it will fail to work.  This security mechanism stops users from sharing protected documents with others and enables you to securely distribute documents without fear of them being passed on to unauthorized parties.

  • Control expiry

    Ensuring that documents expire after a certain period of time or use can be an important part of secure document sharing, secure document distribution, and limiting document use.  Controlled documents can have fixed end dates so they stop being available automatically – no manual administration is required.

    Locklizard Safeguard enables you to securely distribute documents that automatically expire:

    • on a fixed date
    • after a number of days use
    • after a number of views
    • after a number of prints

    You have full control over how long your protected documents can be viewed and printed.

  • Prevent print or limit copies

    Generally, where controlled shared documents are searchable, there is no requirement to allow paper copies to be made and by default printing is disabled.  Disabling printing is an important aspect of secure document distribution, as it ensures printed copies cannot be made available to unauthorized users.

    However, if you want users to be able to make printed copies then you can:

    • limit the number of high-quality prints allowed
    • enforce color documents to be printed in black & white or grayscale
    • log each time a document is printed (see when and where your protected documents were printed)
    • watermark printed content with user-identifiable information (using dynamic watermarks that insert user and system information at print time) to discourage photocopying and subsequent distribution

    Locklizard Safeguard automatically prevents printing to file drivers so that users cannot print to unprotected PDF files and other digital document formats.

  • Lock use to devices

    Locklizard automatically locks document use to devices so they cannot be shared.

    Only authorized devices can view protected documents.

    This enables you to tightly control document sharing, since users have to share a physical device (their laptop). This is unlike secure file sharing sites, where they can easily share login details with others.

  • Restrict location access

    The introduction of personal tablets (BYOD) into the workplace has required a change to controls to make sure that documents that can be used in the workplace cannot be used from other locations yet remain available from  authorized ones.

    Locklizard-protected PDF documents are able to enforce controls such as country locations and the range of IP addresses that they may be used on, allowing shared documents to be restricted to corporate networks, as well as requiring the validity of the license to be checked with each use.  You can restrict location access on a global and user basis enabling tight control over secure document sharing with third parties, and ensuring secure document distribution policies are adhered to.

  • Track use

    There may be occasions when you want to see if a document you have distributed securely has been viewed and/or printed, and where, when, and how often this occurred.

    Locklizard enables you to track document use so you can identify any suspicious activity and instantly revoke access if required.

  • Revoke access

    There are going to be times when you have distributed documents that are no longer valid, users have left a company, or contracts with third parties are no longer active.  On these occasions, both documents and users will need to be revoked so that document access is no longer possible.

    Locklizard Safeguard enables you to instantly revoke access to documents for all or individual users, or revoke user access to all or individual documents in one go.

    Being able to revoke access is a key feature of secure external document sharing, as it ensures you retain full control over users’ access to documents regardless of where they are located.

How to share documents securely with Locklizard

Using Locklizard to send documents securely is simple.

Publishers just protect their PDF file using Safeguard Writer and then add their intended recipients as users in their admin portal.  The system will automatically send them an email with the license file and a link to the Safeguard Reader application required to open the document.  The protected document can then be delivered however the publisher likes, as only authorized users can open it.

Here’s how to share a PDF securely:
  1. Right-click on a PDF on your computer and select ‘Make Secure PDF’.

    Creating a protected PDF file

  2. Select the copy protection controls you want to apply.  By default, editing, copying, and printing are disabled.
    locking pdfs

    Encrypting a PDF without passwords using Safeguard PDF DRM

  3. Press the Publish button to protect the PDF.
  4. Select the users you want to give access to your protected PDF files using the cloud-based Admin System:

    Safeguard Admin System

  5. Then distribute your protected PDF just like any other file.

For a more detailed look at the process, you can read our full guide on how to add security to a PDF.

Why Access Rights & Encryption cannot Prevent Document Sharing & Unauthorized Distribution

Access rights were an important development in the mainframe computer era.  Access rights started by preventing you from writing to a magnetic tape, and improved to reserving the type of access rights you had.  But if you had read access, you could make a copy of the file.  So, access rights did not go very far to prevent document sharing.

To truly prevent document sharing and enable secure document distribution, you need to do something extra.  DRM controls must differ from document access rights.

Some people aim to provide secure external document sharing by using document encryption.  Document encryption is a valuable technique because it prevents document sharing if you do not have the decryption key.  All document encryption software does is take a document and encrypt it. If you look at the ArticSoft or other OpenPGP websites, there’s nothing about stopping valid recipients from copying, document sharing, printing, and so on.  Anyone who can decrypt the document can share it and also alter it, in most cases without detection.

Document encryption software, then, is primarily designed to restrict who can use documents.  It does not have the capability to prevent document sharing, as it does not control what users do with the document and does not prevent authorized users from sharing their encryption key with others.

Document DRM combines encryption, DRM and licensing controls, together with additional operating system controls (such as preventing screen grabbing) that work to prevent document sharing or provide a deterrent.  Personalizing documents with watermarking on viewed or printed images discourages users to  share photographed or printed material.  Restricting the number of times documents can be printed or seen is an improvement over access rights, because it is not an all-or-nothing control.  Document rights are absolute, but DRM controls can be variable, granular, and changeable to suit the rights a publisher wishes to grant.

Secure Document Sharing and Secure Document Distribution in the Cloud

The introduction of ‘the cloud’ as part of the Internet of Things is a recent re-invention of developments by companies such as Tymshare in the 1970s, who introduced networked file and system sharing in an environment that would later be called collaboration.  Collaboration enables users to share and update files stored on remote servers. An example of an online collaboration system is Google Docs, which enables users to share secure documents online and prevent print, restrict editing, track changes, etc.  However, due to Google Docs security issues, these controls are easily bypassed.

The Locklizard model for secure PDF file sharing is not a document collaboration system, since it does not allow users to edit, copy or save document content or pass on user rights.  It is a method of publishing documents securely that prevents alteration, document leakage and piracy.  Publishers can sell PDF documents online securely so they can’t be shared, businesses can provide secure external document sharing with third parties and securely share confidential and sensitive business documents within their organization.

Locklizard Safeguard supports the cloud access approach to secure file sharing by providing web-based access using the normal browser interface – Safeguard Web Viewer – so that it no longer matters where the user is or the device that they are using.  Publishers are able to extend accessibility to their users by publishing their documents to the web, with users able to view them via a browser rather than installing a viewer application on their device.

Unlike document collaboration solutions, this does not mean there is a compromise in the security of documents accessed through the browser.  Protected documents are passed, encrypted, to the browser in ‘chunks’ of 2 or 3 pages and not the whole document in one go.  This makes it more difficult to collect all the pages if someone is attempting to subvert the browser.  Further, only one logged user can use the account at a time, so if a user has had their account compromised (or possibly given the access details away) they will not be able to use their account whenever someone else is using it – this may encourage them to report incidents.

Cloud-based document DRM enables a more flexible method of secure online document sharing (works on any device with a browser) and supports all the usual Locklizard DRM controls: document expiry, logging and watermarking.  You can run Safeguard Web Viewer on your own intranet (internal to your business) as well as on an outside-facing, publicly accessible website.

Secure External Document Sharing and Distribution via USB sticks

Sometimes there will be a requirement to share documents securely in a meeting or at an event.  This is a typical requirement for paper documents.  But what if you could securely share digital documents instantly instead?

Locklizard lets you publish your protected documents to a USB device along with a protected keystore and a secure viewer.  USB devices can then be distributed like paper documents but with additional controls such as expiry, individual user watermarking, and location locking.  Everything the user needs to open the document is on the USB.

Dubbed Safeguard Portable, this can be used completely offline (no Internet access ever required), and since secure documents are locked to USB sticks rather than to specific computers, they can be used anywhere.

Safeguard Portable provides secure external document sharing without users having to install any software or plugins, or access any online systems.

Locklizard – the best way for businesses to securely share documents

Secure external document sharing without passwords

Locklizard is the best way to securely share confidential and sensitive business documents within an organization as well as for external document sharing with third parties.  We provide total PDF protection with US Gov strength AES encryption and public key technology to ensure your PDF files remain protected regardless of their location.

  • Our DRM PDF Security products enable secure document distribution – share documents securely without insecure passwords or plug-ins, and enforce access, location, expiry, and usage controls.
  • Unlike Adobe Permissions which can be easily removed, our DRM controls persistently protect your PDF files and enable you to revoke PDFs at any time regardless of where they are.
  • No keys are exposed to users or interfaces and documents are only ever decrypted in memory – see our DRM technology.
  • Documents are protected on your computer – there are no unprotected copies uploaded to the cloud where they could be compromized.  You can distribute protected PDF files just like any other file – by email, upload to a website, etc.
  • Our easy-to-use administration system provides simple user and document management and unlike passwords, keys are transparently and securely managed for you.

Read our customer testimonials and case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard PDF security to securely share documents and securely sell PDF files.

   FAQs

How secure is Google Drive document share?

Google Drive document share is even less secure than standard web-based collaboration tools.  Regaining the ability to copy and print a document only takes a few seconds and requires no technical knowledge – see how secure are Google Docs?.

Do free secure document sharing platforms/ file sharing applications work?

In our experience, no.  They are either web-based tools, which use easily-exploitable JavaScript, or use password-based security, which is ineffective for a number of reasons.

Does Locklizard stop users from taking a picture of their screen?

Locklizard supports both first and third-party screen grabbing tools, but it naturally cannot stop a user from taking a picture of their screen with a phone or other physical camera.  However, Locklizard’s watermarking system does offer a deterrent from this – displaying a user’s full name and email so that sharing any images will immediately incriminate them.

How do I share documents externally with Locklizard?

After you protect your document using the Safeguard Writer app, simply distribute it as you would any other.  You can use instant messaging, email, or even place it on a public-facing website.  Nobody will be able to view and modify the document without authorization, so it does not matter who has the encrypted .pdc file.

What is the best way to share documents with others?

It depends on your reason to share files.  If the document is not meant to be edited or copied, then the clear answer is Safeguard PDF security.  If you are sharing the document for collaborative purposes, then you’ll have to look at SharePoint,  Google Docs, etc. Google Docs for example is recommended for secure document sharing and editing for small businesses.  However, just bear in mind that their ability to stop your documents from being shared will be limited since controls can be bypassed.

Does Locklizard enable you to share secure documents online and prevent print?

Yes, you can prevent print, editing, and copying.  All of these controls are important to prevent unauthorized distribution and sharing.  Protected documents can be uploaded to the cloud and only those authorized will be able to view them.

Is password protected file sharing safe for business?

No, users can share passwords with others or use free online tools to remove them.  For business document sharing there is no secure way to share password protected documents on the web securely.

Does Gmail enable you to share documents securely?

Gmail does have a confidential mode to protect sensitive information from sharing but users can trivially bypass the printing, downloading, expiry, and copying controls.

How does secure file sharing differ from secure document sharing?

Secure file sharing solutions enable users to share files securely by using access controls and encryption.  They provide a solution for transferring files securely and all file types are supported.  Once the file has been downloaded, the user has complete control over it.

Secure document sharing platforms on the other hand enable users to view documents in a secure manner by enforcing DRM controls that prevent print, edit, copy/paste, etc.  Online systems are less secure because they use JavaScript to enforce these controls which can be edited, bypassed, or disabled.  File types are limited due to a Viewer being required to process the files and render them.

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