PDF files can contain a great variety of information, often consisting of confidential or sensitive data that cannot fall into the wrong hands. That is why it is so important to make sure that any person with the files will be able to access them, much less make modifications. However, sharing files with other co-workers is imperative, so it’s extremely important that documents are only sent to specific, trusted people. In this article, we will discuss how to prevent a PDF file from being sent to untrusted people and how to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Why should I protect my PDF files?
PDF digital documents contain a lot of sensitive data, confidential and secret information that should be specially protected so as not to end up with unauthorized people. It is risky to send files via email or social messaging, as it can be dangerous for your business or organization if you lose control of such documents. Communication tools offer no protection. You won’t know what the recipient does with a document, if they make changes, print the content, or forward it on. Sometimes documents fall into the wrong hands by accident, are sent deliberately to unauthorized persons, or simply end up in spam. That is why it is worth protecting your documents and PDF files.
How to protect and securely upload PDF documents?
The PDF document itself is generally safer than other file extensions. Unlike Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, or Excel forms, PDFs are not easily editable. Without a special program, you cannot make changes to them. However, this is definitely not enough to protect data and confidential information.
To increase the security of business documents, invoices, and e-mail messages, it is worth looking for additional forms of security, which we go into below. There are several ways to send PDFs securely and prevent them from being sent to the wrong people. By doing so, your documents will be safe, protected against unwanted reading, editing, unauthorized access, copying, and sharing of information. How to do it, then?
Set a password
The simplest technique for securing a PDF file is to protect it with a password. You can then share the password only with people who are authorized to open the document, and anyone who enters the access code will be able to open the file. The ability to add a password to a document is offered by most text editors, such as Word. Just open the file in the program and choose the appropriate option.
This solution has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages undoubtedly include the fact that even in the case of accidental sharing of the document, the person who receives it and does not have the password will not be able to access the content easily. However, setting a password has more disadvantages. First, the access code can be cracked with password recovery tools. In addition, you cannot prevent authorized users from sharing the password with other, untrusted people. Then, unauthorized persons can have very easy access to the document. In addition, if you have multiple password-protected documents, you must keep a record of them and their access codes in order to open them yourself. If such a list falls into the wrong hands, all files could be stolen.
Encrypt your documents
The second, slightly more complex method is encryption of PDF documents, which prevents unauthorized sharing. This includes public key encryption to be sure of the author’s identity and so that only trusted people can access the file. A security certificate is most often used for this process.
Encryption is great for storing files locally, in the cloud, or sending files to another user via email. Like the previous solution, it has its pros and cons. Undoubtedly, encryption makes it difficult for outsiders to open a document, but the issue of sharing the protected content with third parties arises again. There is still no control over what a person receiving the document does with it afterwards.
Apply DRM mechanisms
Another way to secure PDF files is to use DRM, or digital rights management. DRM is a set of technologies that puts the author in control of what the reader of a document’s content can do with it. This helps to prevent the sharing of the information contained within.
This is especially useful if you have sensitive or confidential documents, want to determine the availability date of a specific document, or want to limit the location or network on which you can access PDF files. DRM prevents unauthorized sharing and dissemination using a combination of access rights, encryption, licensing controls, and other security techniques.
DRM protection adds extra document protection that strengthens encryption. The primary functions of DRM are to prevent files from being copied, printed, and altered. On the other hand, advanced mechanisms additionally allow for sharing documents only in authorized locations, which provide another level of security for sending and storing documents in PDF format. How exactly can you use DRM mechanisms?
Set an expiration date
Documents expiring after a specified period of time is one method of PDF file protection, enabling safe distribution and restriction of access by unauthorized persons. It works thanks to a very simple principle: you set an expiration date for the document being accessible, and after that date it will not be readable. Expiration can be both a specific date after which a file will automatically lock or a time period, e.g. a document will expire 3 days after printing.
Blocked printing option
Another good way to protect your files from unwanted activity is to prevent them being from printed. Disabling printing allows you to prevent distribution of printouts among users who are not authorized to have them. You can either block printing completely, limit the number of prints, or force only black and white printing, for example. In addition to applying a lock, you can also track the use of a secured document thanks to the addition of dynamic watermarks that appear on printed content in the form of confidentiality seals or company logos. As a result, the number of unwanted printouts will be significantly decreased.
Location-dependent security checks
By applying security controls to documents, you can ensure that only specific locations and IP addresses can access a given PDF. It is extremely important that the location-dependent lock includes all places where the document is to be available, so as not to impede access for authorized persons. However, location-dependent security checks significantly protect PDF files from falling into the wrong hands.
How does HelpRange work?
HelpRange provides comprehensive protection in a very simple way. It is enough to just send the prepared PDF documents to the system, and you will receive two links back. One of them is a public link, which allows you to safely view and share the PDF file with other users. Such a document works great as a lead magnet. In this way, you can share e.g. e-books or other attractive content in order to attract customers. The second link is a private link, which allows you to store the file securely, send it only to authorized readers, manage access control, and view document-specific statistics.
Another very important feature is also the option to edit documents after they have been shared. In such cases, the document will automatically appear in its latest version by the users. An additional possibility provided by HelpRange is the option to restrict access to only the person who opens a given file first. Only they will be able to open it until passing the link on, after which access is transferred to the next person.
PDF upload protection with HelpRange
While all the previously mentioned methods of securing the transmission of PDF documents can increase their security, they are still not sufficient. The aforementioned methods do not guarantee protection against the copying of documents or their use to the detriment of the authoring organization or company. From an aesthetic point of view, such documents also do not look professional and users may face technical problems with opening them correctly. Fortunately, there are tools available that can guarantee increased protection of sent documents and allow them look aesthetically pleasing.
Broad document protection and digital rights management can be provided by programs like HelpRange. Such tools combine all the previously mentioned protection options to guarantee the protection of your PDF files. They offer functionalities including access to PDF files based on IP protocols. This allows for reaching people who have access to a file, limiting the number of views of the document, and setting permission for the PDF file to only be viewed by one person at a time, etc. The person managing the file can also set temporary access restrictions and disable the ability to download, print, or open the file at any time.
Take your PDF security to another level with HelpRange: block PDF forwarding
HelpRange does even more towards securing your PDF files and making sure that they are shared only with those you want to share them with.
It does more than just protecting your PDF upload process.
The PDF files can be blocked from forwarding for protection from people who may gain unauthorized access to them. If that is the case that would be of your interest, HelpRange is here to assist.
One specific PDF link can only be shared with one user at a time which basically means that only the first person who opens it will have the opportunity to open it again in the future. If that PDF will be forwarded to other people, they won’t be able to open it and the links are going to display as blocked ones. What’s more, PDF blocking includes also the owner of the file – it clearly works only for one user, and one only. So, if you want to professionally secure your PDF links and make them available only for a specific user, using HelpRange for blocking PDF forwarding is one of the most reasonable options for you.
Disallow PDF forwarding is not a default option in HelpRange. However, you can easily turn it on in Settings -> Links. Then, a particular link will be “covered” and once a given user opens it, any attempt of forwarding such a file will result in failure. Only the first device that opened the file will be recognized as the one with the ability to open it again.
A few words of summary
Securely sending PDF files is a challenge for many businesses. However, it is an obligation that must be fulfilled for the safety and good of the organization. Traditional methods of protecting and transferring files are not sufficiently secure. Fortunately, additional security measures are readily available, so you can easily protect yourself from the disclosure of documents to third parties or from hacking attacks. The best, most comprehensive protection and monitoring of PDFs is provided by programs such as HelpRange. With it, full control over transferred files ensures the security of your company and its documents.