How to Protect a PDF Document with a Password

The biggest issue with sending attachments with your emails is that you lose all control once you hit send. One way to ensure some slight control is the use of a password with your document which is basically the go-to option for many of us.

Why do you need to protect a PDF document with a password?

Most companies send out some seriously personal or top-secret information such as a company’s financial statements via a PDF attachment. In most cases a PDF document needs a password to try and give it a higher difficulty to see what is in the document to outsiders. Take, for example, healthcare information or financial statements of a publicly traded company. All of which share and send documents that are highly confidential and regulated in the respective industries. There is a requirement that documents are secured.

Password protection is by all means not perfect and it should be considered the most basic of protective measure you could take to protect your PDF document. Bear in mind that when most PDF documents are password protected, the actual password itself will be sent right inside the same email as the attachment. Now, that seems incredibly counterintuitive when the point of it is to ensure that there is high security measures in place. 

Even if you password protect your PDF document, you cannot see what is happening with it. For all you know the document and password are now floating around a forum somewhere being copied and shared over and over again. When you start to use additional security features such as IP locking, expiration dates, and disabling downloads alongside password protection you inevitably decrease the chances of losing the documents or it getting into the wrong hands.

How to encrypt and secure a PDF document with a password

There are multiple ways of adding a password to your PDF documents, but 

consider the huge limitations, which have been mentioned above, that are in place with just basic password protection of your PDF document. 

Password protect a PDF document with Word

Most PDF files begin their life as a Word document so knowing how to encrypt the document at the source is pretty helpful. 

  1. Create your document or open an existing PDF document using Microsoft Word.
  2. Click the File menu and then select the Save As tab. Browse to a location where you would like to save the PDF file.
  3. In the Save As dialog box that appears, select PDF (*.pdf) from the Save as type: drop-down box.
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  1. Click the Options button at the bottom.
  1. At the bottom of the Options window, check the box next to “Encrypt the document with a password” and then click OK.
  1. Enter the password you want to encrypt the PDF file twice and then click OK.
  2. When you’re back to the Save As dialog box, enter a name for the PDF file and click the Save button.

Encrypt a PDF document with a Mac

  1. In the Preview app on your Mac, open the PDF you want to password-protect.
  2. Choose File > Export, then select Encrypt.
  3. Type a password, then retype it to verify the password.

Is password protection the best solution to protect your PDF documents?

It is the most simple solution that you can have for your PDF documents. But as mentioned in the paragraphs above, there are plenty of reasons why passwords are not the best if you really want to maintain document security.

A key problem is the lack of identification between the document and who is using actually viewing it. You could set a unique password for each person that you send the file to but that would take a pretty long time to do a simple task. Also, how will you share the password? Sending the PDF via email and then texted the password might work but its still not the best solution for securing your documents.

Try a dedicated secure document management platform such as HelpRange

Sending heavy attachments should be avoided as not only do you risk the chance of getting dropped into the spam box you also lose control of your document. Using a platform like HelpRange helps you manage your PDFs in a far more secure and efficient way. 

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Using a passcode is just one security feature. You can also: 

  • Set an expiration date
  • Lock to a single IP
  • Enable one viewer at a time
  • Disable document downloads and printing. 
  • Plus you get user data so you who who, when and where someone is viewing your document. 

There’s also the analytics side of the platform that provides fantastic insight into the number of page views, time spent on a page, downloads and an engagement score. All of this makes it incredibly easy to see how someone is using your document.