PDF Security for document protection

Is Your PDF Security Software Just Snake Oil?

Many vendors offer PDF security software to protect PDF documents.  Most PDF security software claims to be able to prevent coping and/or printing, or claims to be able to apply PDF security controls to prevent the document from being distributed across the Internet.  But have you ever asked yourself whether the PDF security software you are purchasing really does what it claims?

For example, when you type the words ‘PDF security’ into Google, the first entry is for a company that removes copy restrictions from files with PDF security applied to them.  This is done by removing the PDF security password applied to the file.  Password based PDF security is very weak, and there are known ways to break it.  Worse yet, users do not even have to pay to remove PDF security.  There are many free PDF security password removers available on the Internet, like at http://freemypdf.com/, that can remove PDF security restrictions in seconds.

Apart from applying document usage restrictions, PDF security software also lets you apply a document open password which is meant to prevent users from sharing PDF documents.  But the user has to know the PDF security password in order to open the document.  This means that any user can pass along the PDF security password, with the protected PDF document, making it possible for anyone to open it.  This is why password protection is not an adequate PDF security solution.  If the PDF security solution you are looking to purchase uses passwords for protection, you should choose another PDF security program.

Some vendors sell PDF security software that hides the passwords used to protect a PDF document, so that the user does not have to enter anything to gain access to the document.  However, this type of PDF security can still be easily broken by PDF password removers.  Another PDF security trick is adding JavaScript to the PDF documents to ‘mask’ the underlying pages.  However, once the PDF document has had the password removed, by using a PDF password removal program, the user can then open the document in a PDF editor, like http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/editor/.  It is then easy to click on the overlay pages to remove them, revealing the unprotected pages underneath.  Free, non-expiry, PDF editors can be downloaded, so users do not even have to pay to remove the PDF security from your documents.

If you want to test a PDF security solution, follow these simple steps:

1)      Protect your PDF document

2)      Use a PDF password removal program on your protected PDF document

3)      If overlay pages are covering the text, open up the document in a PDF editor, click on the overlay image and press the delete button.

If the PDF security has been removed using the three simple steps, you will know that this PDF security solution is nothing more than snake oil.