For both individuals and corporate entities, confidential documents have become a fact of life. Companies have many such files, including strategies, board meeting minutes, and payrolls. For individuals, such confidential files may consist of wills and business contracts.
As such, while all the information contained in the files is useful and beneficial, it may prove detrimental if the details reach the public domain. Yet, this is something we see happening more each day, especially if the documents in question are in electronic format. Even governments have fallen victim to unauthorized document distribution and found their secure documents on WikiLeaks and other such sites.
Often, these leaks happen after you share a document with an intended recipient. This is because the people you give access to are usually involved. Clearly some measures are needed so security breaches can be stopped. The good news is that this is already possible and you just need the knowhow and the willingness to implement Digital Rights Management (DRM).
DRM is one of the most comprehensive measures you can use to ensure secure PDF document distribution. It extends overarching controls after the documents are in the hands of authorized users. In this way, you retain control and protect yourself in the long run.
Features of a Document DRM System
Below are some of the features incorporated in a document DRM system that you could use.
Locking Document Use
By default, DRM software will allow you to lock document usage to the user’s preferred device. In most cases, this would be a personal computer. Once you have locked document usage to that device, the file in question cannot be opened on any other machine and so transmission to any other machine would be futile.
Also, where use locations are sensitive, you can also lock document usage to your office building to ensure that even if someone leaves with their computer, they will not be able to use the file wherever they go. While this may be constricting to users, it is undoubtedly worth it in terms of security.
Eliminating the Password Menace
Passwords are menaces as they do not effectively do what they are supposed to do, namely protect files. Admittedly, using passwords does pretty well while the documents are in transit. But, once the file gets to the user, things start to become shaky. This is because you have to provide each user with login details and so that they too can share your file with other individuals. Also, a user may decide to remove password protection altogether and share the document as is. As such, passwords are unreliable.
So, if you could protect documents in transit without using passwords, you should take the opportunity. A good document DRM system does just that by using high-level encryption in combination with public key technology and secure and transparent key distribution. In this way, the users are unaware of the keys that open the documents and cannot share them with anybody else.
Just because you share documents with your lawyers or other third parties does not mean you have to stop taking responsibility for your files. The only person you can trust to delete the files once their use period is over is yourself. If you do not, the third parties might retain them which may lead to their inevitable leaking. A DRM system allows you to set expiry dates by which document access will automatically be revoked. Therefore, you need not worry about leaving documents in the wrong hands.
Auditing Document Use
People often give third parties access to confidential documents and leave it at that. As such, it is difficult to know if any of the intended recipients are up to any mischief. While it is impossible to predict an individual’s actions, various indicators may give a rough idea of their intentions. For example, if a user opens a particular document in the vicinity of a rival company.
As such, a DRM system may prove invaluable as it enables you to keep a watchful eye on such indicators. So, you can tell how often someone opens a document. You will also know the general vicinity of where they opened the file, when they did so, and sometimes even how many print copies they made. Management becomes a whole lot easier with this information in hand.
Securely distributing PDF documents does not just end when you hit send and it should not be treated as such. Instead, you need to extend control to the user’s personal computer and how your documents can be used. After all, if your documents are as confidential and sensitive as you think they are, you should not be afraid to take the necessary precautionary measures.