How secure is your data really? When you send a PDF file, how do you know the file is secure?
This is where password protection is often one of the first things people think of when considering “document security.” Protecting a PDF file with a password is one of the most basic ways to ensure that a sent file is protected.
Why protect PDF files with a password?
Besides being one of the first things people think of, password protection is also one of the simplest steps to take toward document security. Password protection is by no means a perfect system - it is only an extra step in the way for anyone who may be maliciously trying to access the file.
When you consider a typical office setup, there may be shared computers or shared file storage which anyone within the company can access. Password protection is a deterrent to say, an intern, from accessing your confidential files.
Communicating the password to get into the document with those who should have access is the next step. Usually, you would send the password protected file by a certain channel (for example email, or through a file sharing platform), then send the password via another channel, such as text message or phone call. This practice is known as “out of band” because you are transferring data through a stream that is independent of the main channel of data.
Is password protection effective?
Password protection is not perfect. It is only the most basic level of PDF protection. This level of protection does not prevent people from sharing their password, or passing on the document together with the password in an online forum. Some companies even completely nullify their use of password protection by sending the document and the password to access it in the same email!
Password protection on its own doesn’t allow you to track the document or to see who has opened it. If the content is open to being copied, there is nothing to prevent the recipient from doing so and spreading the information elsewhere. This is why one of our recommendations is that you use password protection along with other security means, such as preventing copying and printing, and tracking your document.
How to encrypt a PDF file with a password
You can easily add a password to PDF documents yourself, of course bearing in mind the limitations we have just outlined. Let’s look at how you can password protect your PDF with various methods:
Password protect a PDF file using Word
Many PDF files begin life as a Word document so it makes sense to be able to encrypt them through the program. You would need to take the following steps on a PC:
- Open the Word doc that you want saved as a PDF. Go to File > Save as > Select save option as PDF.
- Select the “More options” link underneath the file format box, then select the “Options” button from the box that pops up.
- Select the “Encrypt document with a password option,” then enter a password (twice) as prompted. Hit “Save.” Now, every time this file is opened in Office or in any other program, it will prompt people for the password.
Encrypting a PDF with a password on your Mac
A Mac allows you to set a password using the native, Mac OS through the “Preview” program. Here’s how it works:
- Double-click on your PDF doc to open in the Preview app.
- Click File > Save.
- Check the encrypt box > enter your password > click save.
NOTE: If you have a PDF file in Google Docs, you can follow this same method on a Mac after saving a copy to your desktop to work from.
Is password protection an ideal solution?
Password protection is a simple solution, but it is far from ideal. You may have put a small barrier in place to viewing your document, but you do not know who has seen it, for how long or how many times they’ve accessed it.
The key problem here is that a password is not tied to the identity of the person viewing the file. There is one password for the file and it can simply be passed on to others together with the file, and you will be none the wiser. There is also no way to revoke the file or take it back if you’re using free encryption methods such as via Word.
Another important consideration is, although the file is password protected, the contents of the file can still be copied and pasted into another file after it is opened.
Digify - the better alternative
Digify offers a better alternative rather than simply putting a password or passkey on a file. With Digify, the file can be encrypted using a highly secure AES-256 algorithm using your password. Digify can also protect multiple file formats other than PDF.
While password protection is available as a feature within Digify, there are other options available too, for instance restricting access to only people you invite. This is more secure than just a password on the file, as it is tied to the identity of the person. They would need to validate their identity with a one-time code before they are allowed access to the file.
Digify’s features allow you greater control over the files you send:
- Restrict access to your files. You can choose whether people can forward the file, or not. New recipients are also tracked.
- Revoke access to the file at any time.
- Protect the file against copy and paste, or another copy being made.
- Control whether people can print, and if so, how many times.
- Place a watermark on the file, with the recipient's name on it.
- Make a file self-destruct or expire.
- Get instant notifications on your email and Digify mobile app once someone opens your file.
- Know who has viewed your file, for how long and how many times
You can test these features out for yourself with a free, 7 day trial of Digify. Sign up here to get started.