How secure are PDF passwords?

Is your confidential information secure? Learn the three major factors that can affect the security of PDF passwords.

You must protect your personal information when you share sensitive documents, like tax forms or business contracts. Using PDF files is a good way to safeguard your information, as they allow you to password-protect documents. But how secure are PDF passwords in reality?

Let’s explore three factors that could affect the security of password-protected PDFs.

Set a strong password.

A poor choice of PDF password will not adequately protect your information. If you use a very short and simple password — perhaps a word from your daily life — you risk making your PDFs easy to crack.

Current best security practices recommend using passwords of at least 12 characters, but longer is always better. Use a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters to make your password more secure. It’s also best to avoid dictionary words or phrases.

Choose the right security level.

You can restrict access to your PDFs in many ways. You could prevent printing or editing alone or block opening the file entirely.

For the most secure settings, you should prevent access to the entire file without a password. Blocking single features still lets people access the PDF file itself, and it’s relatively easy for a malicious actor to remove the restrictions.

Encrypt your documents.

You can think of a basic PDF password as a locked gate on a fence. It prevents immediate access to your document, but the file is still in plain view behind the fence. If someone gets through the gate, they’ll have full access to your information.

Password encryption scrambles a PDF file’s contents into unintelligible cipher text. Removing the password is not enough — any hacker would also need to figure out how to reconstruct the document data. As such, it’s best to use password encryption instead of a plain password.

PDF passwords are efficient at securing your information if you use them right. Set the correct type of password, and you can safely share your documents.