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PDF Encryption Alternatives

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The first idea that crosses your mind when looking to safeguard your PDF file is to use password protection. This is a commonly used security tool employed by millions of users worldwide. That’s because passwords are easy to remember, offer an assured security level, and are a free feature in all PDF solutions and applications. 

But the unfortunate part is that the same advantages a password protection system offers becomes its weak points. Since the era of password protection, freely available PDF password removal software or recovery applications are easily found online. That means, if you have secured your PDF file with password protection, any individual can break into the password through a PDF password recovery tool found on the Internet.

This file can then be left susceptible to exposure, theft, alteration, misuse and public availability. Similarly, several PDF protection alternatives and restrictions can easily be removed in seconds regardless of how secure they are meant to be. Hence, PDF encryption methods such as password protection solutions become utterly useless from a document security point of view. Let’s look at similar PDF encryption alternatives.

Online encryption alternative

A popular encryption alternative is to use online encryption tools. These encryption solutions encrypt PDF files with a high level of password protection. For instance, you can use PDFs to secure a PDF document: one password that opens the document for general access and another permissions-password to modify, print or copy the contents of the PDF file.

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Several organizations across the world employ a combination of password encryption tools. However, given the fallibility of password hacking, even the double password-encryption solution can leave a PDF document open for misuse. Anyone can easily circumvent a password-based system due to their poor implementation.

Also, with online PDF encryption you have to upload your documents to a remote server where you cannot control what happens to your documents without your knowledge. These remote servers could then be easily compromised, hacked or remotely accessed by miscreants without your information.

In addition, as it is with a simple PDF password protection, the moment you provide passwords of the PDF file to intended users, you may be inadvertently compromising the security of your PDF file. For instance, the recipient can effortlessly share the password and document with any individual.

But even if you have full trust in the intended user not to share your PDF file, external tools or phishing attacks could easily crack the password. Similarly, unauthorized third parties could also intercept the file midway through transmission. Therefore, since simple password protection offers easily assailable technology, online document encryption tools involving double password protection can be a waste of time.

Virtual data rooms

Several organizations, especially those involved in M&A transactions, employ virtual data rooms to protect and distribute confidential PDF files.

These data rooms generally use a restricted area on the server that contains documents to be shared with intended parties or individuals. When using a data room space, you need to enter specific login credentials, and hence, virtual data rooms offer SSL encryption and monitoring of the IP addresses.

However, despite its popularity, they come with several concerns. For instance, while they can be easily accessed via a browser, browser security is known to be weak. 

If the user can edit or remove the JavaScript controls then documents can be viewed in plain text and sent to others without the knowledge of the file creator.

Furthermore, several secure virtual data rooms employ password-based security measures that are inherently flawed and come with the same distribution problems as any other password-based system.

Unfortunately, virtual data rooms do not prevent screenshots or disable printing, leaving the document open to theft or exposure.

Besides, several users can log in with the authorized user’s credentials from the same IP. Therefore you may have no idea of who is actually viewing the document or if you are tracking the right individual.

In addition, once the PDF files have been uploaded on the remote server, the fate of your PDF documents are wholly dependent on the data room provider to ensure they remain safe or appropriately secured.

And even if you manage to find a good virtual data room provider, the exorbitant cost that comes with that could be a significant deterrent. That’s because, at first, a virtual data room might appear reasonable with a low fee. However, as you start adding users and documents to the data room, the cost of maintaining your documents begins to add up.

DRM solutions

If you’re looking for a guaranteed document security solution, you would be wise to consider DRM systems. Digital rights management, also known as DRM, differs vastly from password based PDF encryption solutions. That’s because with DRM:

  • You do not need to maintain passwords to access, manage, share or review the documents. The right PDF DRM solution has transparent keys managed by the DRM system, which is not exposed to any user or interface and cannot be distributed to others.
  • You can lock secured PDF files to authorized IP addresses or devices to prevent them from being shared with any other user.
  • You can lock the usage of the secured PDF file to a country or specific locations, such as a particular address only.
  • You can use DRM controls to set PDF restrictions such as expiry and prevent screenshots or screen grabs.
  • You can add dynamic watermarks to your PDF files and protect them for all users rather than tailor-making it each time you have to send it out to a new user.
  • You can revoke PDF access at any time, irrespective of where your PDF files are located.
  • You can alter user-access secured PDF files on the fly.
  • You can create activity logs on user documentation at all times. In addition, you can also add various add-ons depending on the PDF DRM solution you are using. For instance, you can automate tasks and automatically create users or assign document access. 

These factors are particularly invaluable if you have several PDF files to safeguard, such as in an M&A transaction. Or if you’re looking to sell PDF documents such as manuscripts, scientific reports, or medical data, where you need to ensure you protect your revenue streams.


An excellent and forward-looking PDF DRM security solution is the only secure and simple way of safeguarding your PDF files. Not only can you prevent people from sharing the PDF files, but you also gain control over how the PDF files are being used by authorized users, ensuring complete and end-to-end control over your documents irrespective of their location.

So say goodbye to managing, distributing and controlling password usage and say hello to PDF DRM. Eliminate data leakage and conform to regulatory compliance and document retention policies with the right PDF DRM solution.

A PDF DRM solution should be your only option when protecting your PDF files and intellectual property from leakage and piracy.

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