Tips & Tricks

Why Passwords Should Not Be Used for Document Protection

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The fact that you need document protection implies that there is some risk factor involved. For example, there could be people out there who would love to use your documents for their own gains. One possible result of such theft is that, as the content creator, you get paid less for your hard work. Of course, there are also other negative implications that you may need to guard against.

But, asking your non-tech savvy friends about how to protect your documents is probably not the brightest idea. The most common piece of advice you will get is that you should use password protection. From an expert’s point of view, doing so will only lead you down the wrong path.

Why Password Protection Is a Bad Idea

Reasons Why Password Protection Is a Bad Idea

Despite popular opinion, passwords are not very useful as a security measure due to the following:

  • Password sharing is not a new phenomenon – How many times have you heard of a password falling into the wrong hands? Unfortunately, this does not even always happen by accident. A lot of times someone with access will give the password to another party willingly. And, there is practically no way to either detect this or stop it.
  • Setting up passwords is complicated – A strong password is not something easy to manually generate (ideally you would use a password generator program) and is even harder to remember. When generating strong passwords you need to include many different characters for it not to be easily cracked. So, passwords are either too simple and thus easy to hack or too complicated with the user having to write it down to remember it. In both cases, your documents end up not being as secure.
  • Password theft – As mentioned above, people will write down complicated passwords (or sometimes even simple ones) to remember them. But, this only makes them easier to steal. After all, how difficult do you think it would be to steal a piece of paper or notebook if the information you could obtain is valuable? Also, since you have to share the password you set up with other authorized personnel who need access to protected documents, it could create opportunities for theft to take place. Hacking private messages and emails is rather easy for some.
  • Password removal – Do a Google search for tools that can remove passwords for PDF documents. The results will probably shock you as there are a lot of them. There are even free tools available for that purpose. Sure, there is a fair chance that such tools might not work, but there is always still a workaround. This comes in the form of “PDF password recovery”. Using this feature is excellent when you lose data; but it is a real negative for file security. When a person uses one of these applications, the document will be recovered without any of the security protocols you had put in place. In other words, it will be the same as if you had never used password protection in the first place.
  • Permissions password does not help much – An Adobe PDF permissions password controls how authorized personnel can use the document, right? Wrong. Once someone has a PDF document open, bypassing the permissions password is a piece of cake.  Thereafter, they can do with your document just as they please and there is nothing you can do about it.

Are There Any Viable Options for Document Protection?

You might be wondering (with passwords clearly being so bad for file security) whether there is an option that actually works for protecting your documents.  A document DRM system may be just what you need.  Make sure you choose a system where there is no need to set up or remember a password and where you retain control of the document, even when it is in another person’s hands.

One potential benefit of a document DRM system is that you can revoke access if there is ever a need. Also, if you adjust the DRM controls to your security needs, there is very little chance that your document will end up in the wrong hands.

Most document DRM systems will go way beyond password protection and employ multiple security features to prevent users sharing protected documents such as locking files to devices and locations, watermarking documents, preventing printing and screen grabbing and logging use.

So, try switching up password protection with a document DRM system and you could end up taking your document security to the next level.

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