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Password protecting PDF files

Password Protect PDF
With a growing number of communications – both private and public – being stored in various online repositories, including financial data and healthcare information, the accessibility of such kind of data to users is replete with grave security dangers.

One of the best and earliest lines of defense for protecting confidential user information in a PDF file is the creation of strong password policies.  Users and administrators must engage in creating and enforcing strong password policies in their workplaces, and also educate others on what exactly makes a strong password.  For users to understand the grave security risks they face when using PDF documents, administrators must step into the role of providing guidance in educating and ensuring that users employ strong passwords as the first line of defense against scammers and hackers.

Ideally, technology must be an enabler and facilitate ease of use rather than focusing on technical issues.  For instance, technologies such as one-time passwords, client certificates, smart cards and biometrics are useful in adding various levels of security to an existing framework.  The more advanced and critical the system, the higher the number of security processes and authentication it should include, such as two-factor authentication that is known to combine a number of layers of security as well enhance the security of the system.

However, for PDF files and documents, the traditional password still remains a fundamental method of authentication.  Regardless of the kind of layers involved in any system in a network, it still takes a good old password to initiate the security of a PDF document.  Let’s look at some key elements when employing a password policy for PDF documents.

Understanding the meaning of strong password policies

To define a password policy – it is a fixed set of rules that is created and implemented in order to enhance the security of the specific system and induce users to build reliable, impregnable passwords and then memorize them and apply them in the right manner.  In an office, a password policy could be an integral portion of the rules and regulations of a company that might be part of security training given to all employees.  However, it’s seen that even though users are aware of the nature of security risks concerning passwords, they display frustration when asked to spend additional time in conceiving a strong and complicated password to meet the criteria of document security or when attempting to recollect a previously produced strong password.

Enforcing the use of powerful passwords

A password is a primary line of security against any unauthorized entry into the PDF document.  The more powerful a password, the greater the degree of security the PDF document has from malevolent attacks and scammers.  To be able to build a powerful password, it is important to become aware of the criteria to make one.  Some important points to remember include:

  • A secure password should be at least 8-9 characters in length.
  • It must not comprise any private data —particular one’s actual name, company name or surname.
  • It should not be the same as any previously employed passwords.
  • It must not comprise of any single word spelled out entirely.
  • It should comprise of attributes from the four fundamental classes, including: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as £%$(, etc.

If you follow the basic password protection rules and use strong passwords then your PDF documents should be adequately protected.  Bear in mind however that if you give the password to others then they can do what they like with the PDF document.  So the password protects other users from opening the PDF document but nothing else.  Whilst Adobe employ another type of PDF password, a restrictions password, this can be easily removed by password removal software.  So PDF password protection is really only useful for storing PDF files securely.

Image credit: pixabay.com

Posted on 20th January 2016 in articles

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