How to copy protect PDF documents
PDF is a commonly-used document format. It is very popular
because most computers will have a PDF reader installed, Adobe
Reader being the most commonly used. PDF readers are generally
free to download without any license restrictions so publishing
a document in PDF, as opposed to MS Word, which is only
available through the installation of a licensed Microsoft
Office product, makes more sense because it will be available
to a larger audience.
PDF was originally designed to be a most portable document format that is supported on most computers as possible. However, people are not only interested in distributing their work globally, but they also want to protect these documents. Somehow, this becomes a catch 22 because PDF was not designed to be secure. Sure, Adobe Acrobat and other PDF makers do include some protection options but they are mostly superficial and should not be employed for a security critical project.
The options included in standard PDF creation include password protection, expiry date protection, print protection, and more. But what good are these "protective" measures when they can be so easily reversed? One only has to do a search on the Internet for "protect PDF" to see numerous PDF protection products, which only offer superficial protection and can be captured and copied in many ways. Even their password protection is inferior and is vulnerable to many free programs that are available for extracting passwords. There are also others that promise to decompile PDF to extract all components, including images, text and other media. The fact that people still use such insecure applications is mostly due to naivety, and trust in advertising lies.
Portable Document Format
PDF stands for "Portable Document Format". It is a file format that is created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. Adobe PDF represents two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software and operating system. Consequently, it has become a universal document format and as with all useful technology, it has been plagiarized by numerous manufacturers to provide a huge array of PDF readers and creation tools. However, they all have one thing in common and that is the PostScript, the programming language used for generating the layout and graphics.
PDF can be easily decompiled so to properly protect a PDF document; it needs to be secured by encryption that is not easily undone. But if it is now encrypted, it will not be readable in your run-of-the-mill PDF readers that will not be able to decrypt the new PDF and display its contents. So now we have a new approach, an encrypted PDF and a custom reader that can decrypt it for display.
Now, there are many PDF solutions that do provide an encryption tool and a custom reader. But all of these are merely encryption/decryption tools and although they do offer improved security for password protection, they still cannot prevent the document from being copied or redistributed.
Protect PDF with password
There is free software available for extracting PDF passwords
so for password protection to be secure, the PDF document needs
to be encrypted for use in a custom PDF reader.
Protect PDF with expiry date
Setting a date on a PDF document for the document to expire,
after which the PDF document will become inaccessible, is a
common practice. But it is also a protective technique that is
far too easy to exploit because every PDF maker has used the
computer's date for time checking, and one only has to set
their computer's date back in time to rejuvenate an expired
document. So to properly protect PDF expiration, an independent
time check is required, consulting a timer server online.
Prevent PDF printing
The printing of a PDF can only be prevented by using a custom reader and ideally, one that uses an encrypted PDF document to prevent its contents from being extracted. Limiting the number of prints cannot be maintained and remain hack-free without utilizing an online database for validation checks. Any PDF reader that is trying to police its own security as a standalone application can be easily hacked because it will be keeping its records on the user's computer. Moreover, even if these are stored in the computer's registry, they can be easily accessed and modified. Any updatable record maintained by the PDF reader can be hacked.
Prevent PDF copy
Preventing a PDF document from being copied is a most difficult task. The PDF document can, of course, be duplicated from its original form but the prevention of copying by taking a screenshot requires what most PDF readers do not possess
-- and that is the ability to protect the PDF from Print Screen and screen capture software.
Prevent PDF redistribution
Once a person has a copy of your PDF document, there is nothing that could prevent him from redistributing it by sending a copy to others, that is, if it were your usual PDF reader cum encryption solution. To prevent the redistribution of PDF documents to other persons who may not be authorized for their use, you need a PDF reader that is DRM-enabled. Digital Rights Management (DRM) checks the access privileges of a user before allowing the document to be opened.
PDF Document Security Summation
CopySafe PDF does what no other "PDF protection" can do. It
actually protects your PDF from all save and copy including
screen capture! Grasping this simple and obvious fact may help
you to realize that all other solutions are falsely advertised
and that while they may have the audacity to list similar
features, they cannot deliver anything that matches ArtistScope's
To properly protect PDF documents, you need to use
CopySafe PDF, which was specially
designed to be absolutely copy-proof by utilizing the CopySafe Runtime, which is the only
solution that is proven to be safe from all Print Screen and screen
caters to all of the above mentioned deficiencies, plus more:
CopySafe PDF Reader is
DRM-enabled, which means that it can be used in conjunction with
a third party solution for the management of access privileges.
CopySafe PDF is 100% compatible with
where the PDF Protector is built into the application and
operates server-side for the conversion and encryption of PDF
documents that will be uploaded to your website from a web page.
- Custom PDF reader for viewing documents using
- PDF document cannot be decompiled to extract its
- Option to set a password that cannot be
- Option to prevent printing of the document
- Option to set an expiry date validated by an
independent time server
- Prevent copy by taking a screenshot using Print Screen
- Prevent copy by screen capture software for taking a
- Option to prevent display on remotely-viewed
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