Are your PDFs secure? 5 ways to make sure

Many people believe – mistakenly – that documents created with the PDF standard are inherently secure. A new Nuance webinar shows where the gaps are, and how to plug them.

There are compelling reasons why, over the past 25+ years, the PDF format became the global standard for creating, sharing and archiving electronic documents. Reliability, flexibility and consistency across computing platforms all contributed to PDF documents making up an estimated 80 percent of all electronic documents on the Web. But another key attribute of the PDF format – security – is misunderstood by millions of people who use PDF regularly in their work. They believe, mistakenly, that any document created with PDF is inherently un-editable, unchangeable.

Why the misunderstanding? Because most PDF users use free PDF-viewing software that does not include editing tools; and most only view or print PDF files, rather than edit them.

In reality, PDF documents are easy to change. To compensate, the format enables a host of powerful tools for securing every component of a document, at granular levels. Yet unless users are familiar with these tools, and take advantage of them, they may accidentally share confidential information, or subject their organizations to significant risk.

Properly used, the security tools within business-ready PDF software will ensure that:

  • Recipients of a PDF file can trust that it is authentic
  • Recipients have the appropriate level of privilege to change, or not change, a PDF file
  • The history of edits in a source file is not inadvertently exposed
  • Confidential information within a PDF file is protected, regardless of its source


What to secure, and how to secure it

In a new webinar, PDF expert Duff Johnson reviews the key aspects of security that anyone who creates or distributes PDF files needs to consider. He offers pointed advice on how to leverage the security capabilities made possible by the PDF format, and which business scenarios are best matched to which PDF-security tools. He even provides a warning about popular third-party applications that may evade, or subvert, the effectiveness of PDF software.

Among the core PDF-security capabilities covered in this webinar are:

  1. Removing PII (personally identifiable information) and other sensitive material – when to use search tools and redaction tools, and why never to use black highlighter
  2. Encrypting documents – three basic approaches (password, certificate, and server-based rights management), with their strengths and weaknesses
  3. Editing restrictions – how much you can depend on the PDF “restrict editing” feature (hint: not much)
  4. Encrypting attachments – how to control access to all the elements a PDF file can contain, including attached source documents, markup, and metadata
  5. Digital signatures – the range from simple, short-term solutions to enterprise-class applications, and how to identify what you need

The PDF format, of course, meets the business-document needs of a vast array of organizations, government agencies, and professions. As Johnson demonstrates, it also is a rigorously secure electronic-document format – if you use high-quality PDF software that conforms to the PDF specification, and take full advantage of the security capabilities that are available.

To learn more, view the webinar, “Document Security with PDF” now.

Better PDF security starts now

Watch our on-demand webinar now to learn common myths and misconceptions about PDF files as well as best practices for improving overall security.


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Jeff Segarra

About Jeff Segarra

Jeff Segarra is the Senior Director of Product Marketing for the Nuance Document Imaging Division. He is responsible for the global team that delivers industry product positioning, messaging and content to help our customers around the world identify how Nuance solutions can meet their needs. He enjoys speaking and writing about business process improvement, The Internet of Things, document security, document conversion technologies and personal productivity. He has an MBA from Iona College, Hagan School of Business and has been working with software technology for 20 years. Jeff is an original New Yorker and, therefore, a staunch Yankees fan – in the heart of Red Sox nation.