Why Passwords Do Not Work and an Alternative Approach to Protecting PDF Files


As far as most people know, using a password is the only way to protect anything and everything on electronic devices, including all documents and files.

Of course, using passwords offers all sorts of advantages, such as the following:

Passwords are readily available – Just about every other PDF manipulation software available can create and enforce passwords for your documents. Such passwords include both document access passwords and permissions passwords, as you will find with Adobe Acrobat. With such measures being so easily available, you will find that most people do not even bother to find out if there are any other measures that they can employ. They are simply content with using whatever is available. And, unless they experience a security breach, they might spend the rest of their lives in blissful ignorance, thinking that the measures they employed are working.

They are convenient and easy to use – How many times does the average individual create a password in their lifetime? From passwords to log in to their computers, emails, social media accounts, and even mobile phones, most people have created a password before. And, creating another password should not present a problem. This ease of use may give individuals more reason to sway to password protection.

The above benefits are all well and good if you only plan on keeping the documents to yourself. If you ever need to share your files, you will open yourself up to a whole bevy of pitfalls that come with password protection. The following are examples of such problems:

The sharing process – If you send a password-protected document to a colleague, you will have to send the password as well. And, the transfer process must be secure for sensitive documents. Yet, emails may not be reliable enough and so you will have to think of other ways that cannot be intercepted. This adds another task to your to-do list. Even if you do think of a smart way to transmit the password, it does not guarantee that no one will get to it before it reaches the intended recipient.

The recipient – Most people will only show you the side of their characters that they want you to see. As such, trusting people can be disastrous when it comes to sensitive documents as the same people may end up disappointing you. For example, what makes you think that the recipient of your password and document will not also share the same with another individual. In fact, the recipient may even decide to remove the protection you set up and you will never know about it. The same holds true for permissions password that many people use to regulate how a recipient can use a document. Removing such a password is a walk in the park in today’s digital world.

Password management – Everybody can agree that using the same password for all your documents could be disastrous. Yet, coming up with 200 passwords for 200 different documents would be taxing. Also, some issues can come when creating a password for each document. Where do you store all the passwords? What happens when users forget theirs? How do you share the passwords? How do you match a password to a particular document? A simple mix up could lock everybody out from using the documents.

Password removal tools – Have you ever Googled password removal tools? You should. You will suddenly realize that your documents are much less safe than you believe after having gone through the search results. Bear in mind that some of these tools are very effective at what they claim to do.

As you have seen, passwords constitute a significant part of the problem in document security. So, how can you protect your PDFs without using passwords?  You should use DRM with public key technology.

Imagine if no one ever had to deal with passwords again.  That reality is here as DRM systems using public key technology transmit keys directly to the user’s computer, without the user knowing what the key is.  Not even the administrator will know what the key is.  So, neither of them can share the key.

In addition, the key locks to an authorized device and so the issue of password sharing will soon be a thing of the past.

There are other features that make the use of a DRM system using public key technology a better alternative to using passwords. These include the following:


Document use control – Controlling details, such as printing permissions and the number of views allowed for each document, are all possible with DRM. This is done persistently and access can be revoked at any time at the admin’s discretion. Also, document modification and the use of any copying features are disallowed, leaving only the secured authorized copy available.

Document use logging – It is hard not to notice weird use behaviours when you are continually monitoring how authorized parties use your documents. So, this could help prevent document theft as it will raise red flags early.

Additional security features – A dynamic watermark displaying user information is a serious thing for document thieves. After all, their identity will forever be linked to the theft. So, this added feature will have them thinking twice about their actions and the potential consequences. That should be beneficial to your document security.

 You should at least take some time to consider the two security options. Chances are that you need an upgrade and even though it might be expensive initially, the move to a DRM system should prove worthwhile in the long run. Do not delay and do not gamble with the security of any of your sensitive documents.


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