Why do small businesses still need PDF DRM?

As a small business, it’s even more important that your resources are being distributed correctly.  It’s even more important that capital goes towards solutions that your company really needs rather than those with limited benefits.  With a lack of resources and educational material available online, then, it’s no surprise that many small businesses forgo document DRM.  Unfortunately, document protection has a lot of misleading marketing, selling to SMBs the idea that they can keep their documents safe without paying the premiums of a DRM provider. 

Adobe Acrobat is a prime example of this.  On the surface, it seems like small businesses can pay $17 per license per month for a competent PDF tool that doubles as effective protection against copying, editing, and printing.  Adobe PDF is a good PDF creator and reader – but the security side of the solution is far less useful than you might expect. 

The fatal flaw in Adobe’s protection mechanism is that it primarily uses password-based security for its permissions.  Adobe PDFs can have two separate passwords: one to open the document and one to edit it. Unfortunately, once you have the open password it’s trivial to remove the editing one with easily accessible online tools.  As a result, all it takes is for one person to leak or share the password (or remove it) and your PDF is out there for anybody to read, copy, or modify.  The worst part?  You might not even know it’s happened.

Why proper document protection is important?

Why do small businesses still need PDF DRM

At this point, you may be thinking “so what?”.  You may be under the illusion that your small business is unlikely to be a target of attackers or leakers and that you have few enough employees that you can trust them all.

The statistics suggest otherwise.  A 2019 study suggests that 63% of SMBs experienced a data breach between 2018 and 2019. 93% of these are financially motivated – which shows how profitable the data from small businesses can be.  The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of small and medium companies store information about employees, customers, and their own company that is considered confidential.  This kind of information is valuable to criminals no matter their size. 

However, it’s valuable to the people inside of your circle, too.  Research from InfoWatch reveals that external attacks only account for 43% of data leaks – with 57% the result of internal violators.  This means that using software such as Acrobat protects organizations at best from less than half of leaks.  In reality, any password-based system is open to brute-forcing by hackers and other exploits, making that number much lower.

Aside from all that, there’s legal compliance to worry about.  Consumer privacy legislation such as GDPR, CCPA, CDPA, and more specify that you must process personal data with the appropriate security, including protection against accidental loss and unlawful processing.  With potentially huge financial penalties for breaking these standards and even bigger reputational damage, it’s worth spending a little more on security.

PDF DRM – The best solution for small businesses?

The problem, of course, is that many smaller businesses can’t afford costly enterprise security systems that throw in buzzwords such as “AI-powered”, and “next-generation”.  When they do shell out, they rarely protect documents after they have left the environment they were created in.  It is possible, however, to protect documents after they have been shared without having to pay thousands of dollars per month.

PDF DRM allows the creator of a document to quickly encrypt it before they share it with anyone.  After that point, it can only be opened by someone who uses a secure PDF viewer application and has the license on their PC that lets them open it.  In other words, no need for passwords.

More crucially, this combination of strong encryption and a carefully locked down viewer application allows businesses to effectively prevent editing, copying, screenshots, printing, and more. The ability to open documents can additionally be locked to certain devices and locations and documents can be made to expire after a period of time or a number of actions to comply with data regulations.  Finally, dynamic watermarks, combined with extensive view and print logging, help businesses to identify the source of a leak if one does occur. 

While PDF DRM solutions aren’t a direct replacement for endpoint security, they do provide significant additional help in preventing both authorized and unauthorized document sharing at a very reasonable price.  This makes them a good option for businesses looking to replace ineffective solutions like Adobe Acrobat for PDF security.


Q1: Why do small businesses still need PDF DRM?

PDF DRM allows you to protect your digital documents from being copied and distributed. This is especially important if you are selling your document online. It’s also important for those who have to print out documents for their customers.

Q2: How does PDF DRM work?

PDF DRM is a technology that uses encryption to protect your document from being copied and distributed. The way it works is that the encryption key is embedded within the document. When someone tries to copy the document, the encryption key is not recognized.

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