Understanding PDF security


In our article Secure PDF files we explain the basics of securing PDFs with passwords and digital signatures. The following article outlines the importance of knowing that in order to make your PDFs extra secure, passwords are not enough.

You may have come across articles or tools about removing passwords from PDF files. Unfortunately these tools are not the only method to bypass passwords for PDF files. The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of passwords you can create for your PDF files: an 'owner password', which you need for editing a file and a 'user password', which is needed for opening a PDF. In other words, an owner password gives you the right to do anything you want with your PDF file. Optionally, you can create a user password to view the file. If you do not know the user password, you cannot open the PDF. In any case the password always encrypts the PDF file. However, if no user password has been set, there still needs to be a way to display the content. Therefore, the PDF reader can actually completely decrypt the file while it is only sticking to the selected settings “by courtesy”. That leads to the possibility that after printing with for example PDFCreator, the password security might be completely removed.

In order to make your PDF files as secure as possible, it is recommendable to add a digital signature to the document. While this cannot prevent any changes being made to the PDF file, it does prove that the PDF has not been modified after the signature was added.

With PDF Architect it is easy and secure to add a digital signature. This is best to be done by purchasing a signature from an external provider because it will ensure that the authenticity is being recognized on all systems. Once you have uploaded your signature, you can select a reason for signing the document. With an optional added time stamp, you can prove the exact date and time the signature has been added.

Our quick step guide:

How can I secure my PDFs?

  • Download PDFCreator
  • Open a PDF and create a user password
  • Open the file with PDF Architect (the Professional plan is required)
  • Create a digital signature
  • Upload the signature and add it to your PDF file

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