By Emily Green
The PDF, or Portable Document Format, has become a staple in today’s electronic world. These documents are the cornerstone of file and document sharing due to the portability and ease of use. These types of documents can be used across differing platforms and operating systems, machines and monitors — and they will retain their original formatting as well.
While these documents are very popular, as with any type of document that will be shared, security is an issue. Many people do not realize that without security systems in place, PDFs can be changed and disseminated freely. Understanding these issues is very important, especially if the PDF documents contain trademarked, confidential or sensitive information.
There are several ways to ensure the security of your PDFs, including who can view the document to how it can be shared.
Passwords and Public Keys
Basic PDF security uses encryption; however there are many different ways to encrypt a document. The most basic way is to password-protect the file to give only those users with that password access to the PDF. When using this type of protection, it is best to send the password via a different transmission method, such as the phone, so that the password is not sent with the document.
Using public and private keys is another essential of PDF security. To use this, a digital certificate needs to be obtained. There are many different assigning authorities of this type of certification and programs such as Outlook have easy-to-use tools to obtain one. Once the certificate has been obtained, the PDF can be encrypted with this digital certificate or signature. The recipient of the encrypted PDF will need a corresponding key to open and/or manipulate the document.
Copying and Printing
There are methods that can be put into place to prevent the printing or copying of PDF documents. Security can be put into place that can deter the copying and pasting of text or images to another document. In addition, the PDF can be formatted to not allow high-resolution printing. These features are especially important for people such as designers and writers who are sending proofs to clients who have yet to pay for the project. While most people wouldn’t think of stealing work this way, these security methods are a way to ensure works remain protected.
There are several ways to put these security features into place. Many programs have these features built in. Additionally, there are many online services that can help secure PDF documents. No matter the choice, securing PDF documents is something anyone who needs to share sensitive documents should use.
Emily Green is a working writer, published poet, and admitted alliteration addict currently living outside of Boston. Specializing in food and travel writing, she can usually be found making a mess of her kitchen or getting lost (on purpose…usually) in the small towns of New England. She also makes cheese. No, really. You can find more of her writing at Copy for Bylines.