Document Security 101

Digital document editing and sharing is simpler and more efficient than ever before. Yet, it is easy to overlook the advanced security capabilities offered by modern word processing and document viewing applications. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help enhance the security of your documents:

Explore word processing “permissions” and editing options: Microsoft Word and other modern word processing programs offer “permissions” options allowing users to determine who can open, modify and use documents. Separately, using the “tracked changes” option to edit documents helps to both identify the source of revisions and ensure that edits are detected.

Send “final” versions of documents in a PDF format: Adobe Acrobat Professional enables users to convert a word processing file to a non-editable PDF format. Sending document files in a PDF format can help guard against unauthorized modifications.

Consider password protecting PDFs: Where multiple users have access to emails being sent and received, password protecting PDF document attachments may reduce the risk that an unauthorized or unintended person will gain access. Passwords can be sent through a separate email or provided through another secure system (e.g., interoffice messaging system or secure phone connection). Digital security experts recommend using a password with several characters (including a combination of numbers, letters and symbols). Of course, using an easily discoverable password (“Password” or “123ABC,” for example) – or the same password for all documents – undermines document security.

Consider using security features built into online document sharing applications: Cloud-based applications like Dropbox enable users to access a virtual folder in which files can be “dragged and dropped” for future use and reference. Files can be made available for viewing or editing “offline” and can be shared between devices. Such applications enable users to not only limit the users who have access to files, but also to control the extent to which a document can be edited. Another advantage to cloud-based applications is their smaller digital “footprint.”

Beware of auto-populating email: Email platforms with “auto-populate” features attempt to predict the intended email address based upon the user’s first few keystrokes. Although convenient, this feature can lead to the emails being sent to unintended recipients. Indeed, it only takes one hasty “send” click to result in an inadvertent email send out, which could threaten to reveal confidential or sensitive information.

Don’t lose sight of low-tech alternatives: In some situations, sending a highly sensitive document via UPS or FedEx shipment may still present the most secure method of delivering information.

As the old saying goes, technology is only as good as the user who employs it. As new technologies continue to emerge, one important challenge is to make use of new editing and sharing features while minimizing the risks of unintended access, editing and disclosure.

Questions? Contact Wright Beamer at (248) 477-6300 or visit our website at

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