How to send a secure PDF.

A woman uses a laptop to send a secure PDF with Adobe Acrobat.

Learn how to enhance protection for PDFs with passwords or safety certificates to share docs more securely.

Most of us share PDF files daily, whether as part of business, studying, or regular everyday life. No matter what kind of files you share, it’s critical to keep your data’s security top of mind. Even the most mundane PDF document may contain information that you don’t want to be made public. That’s why it’s a good idea to enhance the protection of your PDFs before sharing them.

Need to know how to send a secure document but not sure where to begin? This guide will answer all of your questions about safe document sharing and walk you through how to send a PDF securely via email.

Is sending a PDF via email secure?

On its own, email is a fast and reliable way to deliver digital documents, but it only has average levels of security. Once sent, anyone with access to the recipient’s email account could download and view your documents. That’s why it’s important to know how to send a PDF securely. Adding additional layers of protection, like a password or encryption to the document itself, will restrict viewership to the intended recipient.

With additional protection in place, email becomes one of the fastest and safest ways to send a PDF securely.

How to send a secure document.

There are a few options for how to send a secure document via email. The safest ways to send it are:

All of these methods will send the PDF securely to the intended recipient, though personal preference may dictate using one more than another.

How to secure a PDF.

Now that you know how to send documents securely via email, let’s talk about how to secure your PDF file. There are two main ways to secure a PDF — password protection and encryption. They’re often used hand-in-hand, so when the recipient enters the correct password, it also unscrambles the encryption, allowing them to access the data within the document. However, it is possible to send an unencrypted PDF that is only password-protected.

How to send password-protected PDF files.

  1. Launch Adobe Acrobat and select the Protect tool from the Tools menu.
  2. Choose your protection settings. You can restrict editing with a password or encrypt the entire PDF with a password or digital certificate. You can also erase hidden information from the file.
  3. Once you’ve protected your file, save it as a separate copy for safekeeping.
  4. Select Share With Others from the top toolbar.
  5. Add the recipients’ email addresses. You can also allow comments with the Allow Commenting switch and add an optional deadline reminder.
  6. Select Send to share your file.

Finally, separately deliver the proper password or safety certificate to your recipients. This way, you’ll help ensure your files are more secure and won’t be opened by anyone unintentionally.

How to protect a PDF online to send documents securely.

You might not always have the time to go through this process, especially if you’re out and about. When you need to protect a PDF quickly, you can use Adobe Acrobat online services.
To secure a PDF using the Protect PDF tool, follow these steps:

  1. Upload your file by dragging and dropping the PDF into the drop zone or clicking the button labeled “Select a file.”
  2. Enter a strong password with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
  3. Retype your entry to confirm the password.
  4. Click Set password.
  5. Download your newly protected PDF or sign in to share it.

Is encrypting the same as password-protecting a PDF?

No, though they are very similar. You can send PDFs securely using just password protection, but you can’t encrypt a document without a password. A password locks the document to prevent viewership, while encryption takes it a step further by scrambling the information so that it can’t be read or interpreted without an encryption key, which often doubles as the password used to lock it. Encryption adds an extra layer of protection that lowers the chances of a data breach occurring while the document is being transmitted or downloaded.

Tips for how to send documents securely via email.

  1. Know what type of document you’re planning to send ahead of time. The steps for how to send a secure PDF will likely be different than the steps for creating a secure Word document or another type of file.
  2. Do a test run. Try sending the document to yourself as an attachment or link to make sure everything works the way you expect.
  3. Make a plan for how you will communicate the password or encryption key ahead of time. It won’t do the recipient any good to receive the secure PDF but not be able to open and view it. The best practice is to communicate the password in another secure manner rather than typing it out in the body of the email your secure document is attached to.

What issues can I run into when trying to send documents securely?

Some of the most common issues you may encounter while learning how to send a secure document include:

Is it easy for someone to remove password protection on a secure PDF?

In order to remove password protection from a PDF file, the user must have a certain level of permission. If they are not a policy author or an administrator of the PDF file, then they will not be able to access the security settings needed to remove the PDF password.

More resources to work with your PDF.

Now that you know how to send a PDF securely via email, here are some additional resources to work with:

Discover everything you can do with Acrobat and Acrobat online services to help secure, share, and make your PDF workflows fly.