PDFs Can Be Mass Distributed: Why You Need to Stop It from Happening


Are you worried about document security or concerned your PDFs could be forwarded, shared or even mass distributed without your consent? Here’s what you need to know about using Digital Rights Management (DRM) for document security.

Why Access Rights and Document Encryption Aren’t Enough

Document encryption is a great step up in security. Unless the correct ‘key’ (something like a password, but much more secure) is used, the document will remain unreadable. However, encryption does have a weakness: Once the document has been decrypted, it can be shared, forwarded or otherwise distributed against your wishes.

PDFLikewise, access rights allow you to limit who can access your document, but only until a user copies the document. Thereafter, the user can easily make a version of it that’s free of any access rights.

What, then, does DRM do to protect your documents? Simple. It prevents the forwarding of PDFs, stops the sharing of PDFs, and makes the mass distribution of PDFs close to impossible. And, it does all this while harnessing the best aspects of document encryption and access rights to add to the security of your PDF files.

How Does DRM Keep My PDFs More Secure?

Unlike access rights, DRM allows you to use a more flexible solution to protect your documents while allowing the recipient to use them as needed. For example, access can be granted and then revoked and you can set the document to be viewed for a limited number of times only. Personalization can also be applied to your document in the form of watermarks and other deterrents to unlicensed copying. In short, you can tailor the document safety solution so that it works for you. DRM is part of the document itself, so even if the document is copied the same access controls will be applied.

How Is Unauthorized Forwarding Prevented by DRM?

Encryption is key here. However, using standard encryption, once decrypted, will still allow that recipient to save and forward the non-encrypted version. DRM makes that impossible.

With DRM, only an encrypted PDF can be sent. So, the file is useless to those without authorization. This adds an extra layer of security by ensuring that the license to use your PDF can’t be transferred to a different device, thereby preventing the sharing of the document. DRM could even be set up to require a specialist reader (for example, one which prevents the PC from caching your document) to decode the PDF and will, in this way, automatically prevent the ‘save as’ function being used to create a different copy of your document.

What About Other Forms of Sharing?

Everything about good DRM software is designed to prevent unauthorized sharing. So, it prevents the document from being edited and even prevents the text being highlighted and copied. DRM also stops print screen and blocks screen grabber programs from capturing screen content. The copy and paste functions are also deactivated to prevent the data being removed to a non-DRM document. It will also restrict or ban the printing of your document (whatever you decide) and user-detail watermarks can be harnessed for further security on those documents which do need to be printed.

Taking Prevention of Mass Distribution a Step Further

This isn’t all a great DRM software can do to help you prevent mass distribution of your documents. It’ll also allow you to choose to ‘lock’ your PDF to a specific address, IP range, location or domain. This is particularly useful when an employee is accessing sensitive data in the office on a personal device as he or she will be unable to open the same document at home. You can also add logs to your PDFs which will let you see who accessed or printed your document and when that was done.

All in all, DRM for PDFs is the solution to the problem of unwanted mass distribution of your documents.


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