With the digitization of businesses, companies are looking for the most secure way to share and received files. In the past, PDFs have been the go-to file format when it comes to sending and opening document and image files. There’s really no secret why—PDFs are highly secure.
But how far does PDF security go? Does password protection really work? What about encrypting and decryption PDFs? At the end of this guide, you should have a good understanding of whether PDFs are really a safe option for sharing text and image files.
First and foremost, we need to familiarize ourselves with document security. There are several ways content creators can protect their PDF documents from falling into the wrong hands or being used for unintended purposes. These measures are:
· Password protection
· Document tracking
· Digital rights
· Document expiry
· Document encryption
How Safe are Passwords?
Password-protecting a PDF file is a one-step method that stops unauthorized personnel from gaining access to the file. You can use Adobe Acrobat or even an online PDF editor to password-protect your PDF file, after which you need to share the password with an authorized user. Password-protecting PDFs offer Viewing or Editing rights.
Like passwords for emails or social media accounts, there’s no guarantee that a tech-savvy individual won’t break the password with brute force. That said, you can ensure that your password is as close to foolproof as possible by inputting a longer password rather than a shorter password with complex characters.
Estimates show that a 9-character password takes only five days to break, whereas a 12-character password will need over 200 years for code-breaking programs to guess correctly. Also, random characters—i.e., words not found in the dictionary—can further enhance the security of your PDF. Just make sure you have the password stored somewhere safe for easy access.
How Safe Is Encryption?
Compared to password protection, PDF encryption is the safer option to secure your files from unknown users. The consensus shows that the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat is effective when using either the 128-bit or 256-bit option with more than eight characters. Again, encrypting with random characters is far more effective than using words in a dictionary. Similar to password-protecting PDFs, you need to give the decryption key to the file receiver.
Encrypting PDFs offer more security than just basic viewing and editing rights. Encryption allows users to modify printing rights (none, low-res, high-res printing), advanced editing (inserting, deleting, rotating, filling forms, signing, annotating, extracting), and copying (text, images, both, none).
Can PDF Files Carry Viruses?
Yes, they can. While the more reliable way to detect malicious software on your computer is by looking at the file extension, viruses can just as easily travel through document files as they can executable files.
So, what does this mean for companies? Well, sharing PDFs is not a guarantee that other parties are not trying to compromise your IT system. However, with basic cybersecurity knowledge, you can ensure that your employees don’t put your digital system’s well-being into jeopardy. For instance, teach your employees to never open files from unknown sources, always run a scan to check for viruses in all files, update antivirus and antimalware software, and only use a trusted PDF editor (like Adobe) with good reviews.
How to Securely Convert Files to and from PDF
Now that we’ve gone over how secure PDFs are, we feel inclined to mention how you can securely convert files to and from PDF. We mentioned Adobe Acrobat numerous times in this article. That’s because, as the creator of PDFs, users can rest assured that Adobe will offer the most comprehensive PDF tools. The downside of Adobe Acrobat is its annual subscription fee, which can cost businesses upwards of $200 every month.
If you don’t want to spring for a subscription or only need a PDF converter for basic functions (to merge, split, or sign PDF files), consider checking out Sejda. It’s a free online PDF converter that deletes every file you upload after just two hours. Another excellent online PDF editor is PDFChef that offers a comprehensive list of conversion options and basic editing tools.
So, Are PDFs as Safe as People Claim?
They can be. However, even with password protection or encryption, your employees need to understand the importance of cybersecurity and not sharing files with unauthorized users. Make sure your antivirus and antimalware programs are up to date, your personnel trained in the fine arts of basic cybersecurity, and that you use only trusted software and services when protecting and converting PDFs.