How to Secure, Share and Track your PDF Documents

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Sending a PDF attachment has become almost second nature to many of us. Most of the time these PDF documents are actually holding important or sensitive information that we rarely think twice about sending as an attachment. Once it leaves your inbox that PDF is out in the open and personally, that makes me feel uneasy. 

Before jumping into the guide on how you securely share and track your PDF documents, lets quickly review some of the reasons why you shouldn’t send PDF documents as attachments.

3 Risky Reasons Why Email Attachments Are Bad

  1. You lose control of your attachment as soon as you hit send. That means the attachment can be downloaded, copied, shared and used as the receiver pleases to. Which in most cases is not so malicious but if it lands in the wrong inbox, there could be trouble.
  2. Emails lack the security that is needed to make us feel at ease. Since GDPR came into practice, ICO has reported that there has been a 46% increase in email-related data breaches. Attachments and emails generally have some information that can give access or information which should otherwise be kept confidential.
  3. A lot of organizations have strict virus protection on their inboxes because of the simple fact that email is easy to get into if you know what you are doing. The result is that bulky attachments will normally go to the junk mailbox. Unless the receiver gets the OK for your email address which is easy to forget to do so. As working from home has become the norm, more and more emails with attachments will get shared, ultimately increasing the chances of sending emails to the wrong person or malicious activities taking place.

Now let us look into the options that you have for password protecting your PDF documents. Password protection can and will do the trick for keeping the PDF secured and out of the hands of the bad guys.

How to add a password with Adobe Acrobat DC

  1. Open the PDF document in Acrobat.
  2. Head over to ‘File’, then select ‘Protect Using Password’. 
  3. The password can only be set for editing the PDF document or viewing it.
  4. Add your password.
  5. Click ‘Apply’

How to add a password using Preview on a Mac

  1. Open the PDF document in Preview.
  2. Head over to ‘File’ then click ‘Export’.
  3. Enter the file name, select ‘Encrypt’.
  4. Add your password and then click ‘Save’.

The benefit of password protecting your PDF document is that only the other person/people who know the password can get it. The difficult part is – how do you share the password? If you send the document attached but password protected then you add the password into the email it sort of creates a moot point. So this can be tricky but a text message or Slack note can make the process easier.

There still is the issue of sending an attachment via email that takes away the control and understanding of what is happening with it. Tracking the PDF documents use is completely lost and out of your hands, so password or no password you have no idea about who, where and when viewed your document. 

How to share PDF documents securely and track usage

To give you the peace of mind that your PDF documents can be shared in a secure manner, we created a set of access and security options for HelpRange users. Using a secure document sharing platform like HelpRange makes it incredibly easy to know what is not only happening with your document but also safe in the knowledge that it is safe and secure.

Start a free trial of HelpRange today to send secured PDF documents. Check out this video of the access and control settings you can choose from:

  1. Upload your PDF to HelpRange

Once you upload your PDF document, a secure link is generated which can then be shared with your contacts. The link can be used in your email as a hyperlink or use it as an image click-through link. Either way a link is easy to incorporate into a document or email. 

Note: That if you happen to noticed a mistake within the document, you do not have to upload the fixed version and send a new link. Just be sure to save the document with the same name as the current document and it will replace it for everyone else. No apologetic emails to send, hoorah!

  1. Passcode Protect the PDF Document

You can update and change all security and access settings after you send the document so do not worry about it if you forget to do so. In the screenshot above you can see the options you have, passcode just has to be selected and you can use the generated passcode or create your own one. Hit ‘save’ and that link is now passcode protected for everyone. 

There is also the option of adding an expiration date which ensures time sensitive documents, even if they are forwarded, will go dark once a specific date is hit. This is ideal if you are sharing financial information for example. 

  1. Revoke Access & Disable Downloads

You can see in the screenshot above that there are some additional options for added security which is to disable or enable downloads of the PDF document. You can also revoke link access with one button on the file’s dashboard too, if you get a smell that something is not quite right, hit the equivalent of a panic button.

Tracking your PDF Document

As mentioned, secure PDFs sent via email are still lost once they leave your inbox. You instantly lack the clarity of who, when and where which can make people feel uneasy, especially as the documents level of privacy goes up. With HelpRange we take out the guesswork and give you website level analytics of the document usage. 

Once you upload your PDF document you have the option to create links for specific users and groups. This provides complete transparency as to who is viewing your document. Once you share the link you can even see time on page, the engagement score, heat mapping, IP, browser information and more. Your documents are now being completely and totally tracked whilst you have all the access control that you need to maintain secure documents. Learn more about digital rights management in this article.

Check out this video of HelpRange’s tracking and analytics: