Portable Document Format (PDF) files are a great way to share information. Each PDF file contains all the pieces it needs to remain visually consistent when viewed with a variety of applications, regardless of origin or destination.
However, there is a downside to using such a universal format: if not properly protected, they may be susceptible to file theft and inappropriate file sharing.
How to Protect PDFs
Companies have a number of options for preventing unauthorized users from accessing a PDF file. For example, a company might use expiring links or IP tracking to create a secure download. Another option might be to use a password-protected directory on the company’s website.
File-specific protections are also available. A permission-based system can allow the creator to protect documents from unauthorized viewing, printing or modifying. With the right software, documents can be set to disallow copying, saving or sharing. They can even prevent users from “printing to file” (by using an image printer, for example).
Some highly sensitive files contain important financial information or trade secrets, but need to be shared due to a merger, acquisition or other financial event. Companies can ensure maximum security of these files by using a secure virtual data room.
Choosing a virtual data storage solution that offers strong encryption, multi-factor authentication, a redundant infrastructure, 24/7 monitoring and that is SAS 70 certified will protect the file from inappropriate access. In addition to these features, a good virtual data storage company will offer file-specific protections, including permission-based roles for user access, time-out security and an audit log that tracks document views per user.
Choosing The Appropriate Level of Protection
The level of protection a company chooses should be relative to the perceived value and sensitivity of its information. The more important the information, the more protection it warrants. For highly sensitive documents, that may mean investing in more secure methods—such as a secure virtual data room—to ensure confidential data remains safe.