Why PDF Passwords Cannot Adequately Protect Your Documents

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Just the realization that passwords are no longer enough may come as a shock to you. But, if you have never experienced any difficulties regarding their use, you’re one of the lucky few.

Basically, there are a lot of shortfalls in terms of using passwords to protect PDF files and being aware of them should help hasten your decision to move on to something more secure. Here we discuss a few of these issues below.

Setting up a Password is Problematic

One of the big problems already arises right at the beginning of the password protection process, namely when you create it. The most secure passwords have complex requirements. For example, experts recommend that eight characters or more should be used and these should include lower case letters, capital letters, numbers, and special characters. This makes it difficult to create and remember your new password right off the bat. So, you may end up choosing an easier one or writing yours down. And, both of these options may bring on other problems down the road (as mentioned below).

Also, for added security, passwords need to be changed every once in a while. This means that the process for creating a new password must be repeated again.


You likely have multiple documents that need to be shared. And, it is recommended that you need a different password for each document which needs to be shared with the right people. You may also be required to change, update or replace passwords due to certain circumstances. All of this makes managing passwords an issue.

Passwords Crackers

Did you know that there are free password cracking programs available on the Internet? Most of these can bypass your PDF protection in seconds or a few hours depending on the type of encryption and length of password you have used. If you chose an easy-to-remember password like a normal dictionary word then you might dramatically reduce this time period to only a few minutes. Consequently, unauthorized viewers may get access to your documents and you will be none the wiser.

What Was the Password Again?

How much information does the average human being have to retain? We are not sure, but one thing is sure: people do not generally have capacity to remember 50 passwords. Most people even have difficulty remembering 10 passwords. Unfortunately (as discussed above), you need a password for each document and so may need to remember 50 passwords. Those with whom you share a document can also easily forget the shared password and so you will have to remind them every so often as well. This can all lead to a potential breach.

The Password Thief

Thieves are everywhere. And, if thieves want to get your PDF, they just need your password. Unfortunately, most people are not cautious enough about where they hide theirs and, as a result, stealing them can be quite easy.

The All-Important Permissions Password that Can Help Prevent Document Duplication

Did you know that, if you upload a PDF to Google Drive, you can print it, even if the permissions on the document restrict such an action? Even non-Adobe PDF Viewers can be used to bypass the permissions password because Acrobat permissions are based on the honour system and do not have to be obeyed. All anyone needs is the password to open the document to get access to the document and bypass the permissions passwords. All free password cracker programs will remove the permissions password in seconds so any permissions you apply to a PDF document are completely useless.

Passwords Can Simply Be Shared

Thieves may not even have to go through the motions of stealing passwords or cracking them. Someone with authorized access to your document could just willing share the password with an unauthorized party. There is simply no way to know about this and so there cannot be any recompense for such actions. Also, as a result, you will never be sure how many people are using a specific password.


Any system that requires a user to enter a password to access a protected PDF document is not secure. The password can be shared with others or the password can be cracked by password removal programs to make access to the ‘protected’ document fairly simple.

When looking to protect PDF files you need to find a system that does not rely on passwords but instead uses public key technology and ensures that keys are not exposed to users or interfaces where they can be readily cracked. Any good PDF DRM system like Locklizard will use licensing controls to ensure keys are securely transferred to authorized devices and locked to those devices so they cannot be shared.

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