Document Security is More than Just Password-Protection

Thirty years ago, Adobe created the Portable Document Format (PDF) to facilitate sharing documents across different software applications while maintaining text and image formatting. Today, PDF is considered the de facto industry standard for documents that contain critical and sensitive business information. In fact, it is estimated that more than three (3) trillion PDFs – from confidential business strategies and insights to sales agreements to legal contracts – are shared every day worldwide.

With the rise of remote and hybrid work in the past few years, adversaries and other bad actors have been given a virtual buffet of new ways to launch their harmful attacks, as more documents than ever are shared across the Internet. From embedding malware or a phishing link in a document to manipulated or outright forged documents and other types of cyber fraud, the increase in document-related attacks cannot be ignored, especially if your company handles tax forms, business filings, or bank statements–the three types of most frequently manipulated documents.

No matter what types of documents your business works with, securing those documents against adversarial attacks should be a top priority. Here are five strategies that enterprise leaders should consider, to better protect their company’s most critical and sensitive documents:

Make sure workplace tools and software are secure-by-default and secure-by-design. The best software and tools are built with security in mind from the bottom up, not bolted on as an afterthought. When engaging with any vendor, verify that their offerings are secure to use out of the box or are configurable to fit your business needs in a secure manner. Their development practices should also follow security best practices, including adherence and adoption of security standards, frameworks and methodologies.

Look into application protection. As you evaluate various workplace tools, evaluate whether they include features that safeguard your business from attempts to install malware on an employee’s system or launch a phishing attack through an e-mail attachment. Sandboxing is a highly respected security method that creates a confined execution environment where you can run programs with low rights or privileges.

Develop a plan to protect personally identifying information (PII). Many documents include personally identifying information, such as Social Security Numbers (SSNs), birthdates, and home addresses. Without a plan to protect PII, your business could be at significant legal and financial risk if that information is leaked and/or publicly exposed. Critical documents such as statements, bills, invoices, or verification letters should include electronic seals, or e-seals, that virtually demonstrate authenticity and integrity of the document as well as verify the identity of the document’s origin.

Provide access control. Protecting your documents is only a small part of a comprehensive approach to security. Making sure that only authorized individuals can access or modify specific documents and verifying those individuals’ identities are critically important—and only becoming more so as bad actors use phishing attacks to steal employee credentials. By establishing additional gateways to verify access such as single sign-on (SSO) and phishing-resistant authentication techniques, device posture management, digital signatures, and digital certificates from trusted service providers, you can help your company become more resilient to the ever-more-sophisticated adversary attacks.

Default to cloud-based storage. Best-in-class cloud storage providers are equipped with world-class regional data centers that help ensure data security, high performance and availability, as well as business continuity/disaster recovery. They’re also extremely cost-effective for businesses of all sizes, since you don’t need to invest in and maintain this complicated hardware and software infrastructure yourself. This will save your business time and money.

Embed Security into Your Organization’s Culture

Simply protecting a document with a password is no longer sufficient to combat the many increasingly sophisticated types and vectors of attacks popular with today’s cybercriminals. The most resilient companies employ a multi-layered security strategy in terms of technologies, but also make security awareness a part of the organization’s culture. When employees are educated about how and why adversaries attack, they are better equipped to defend against them—and keep your entire organization, its documents, and its data secure. Remember: employees are your first and last line of defense against cybercriminals, so investing in security awareness is one of the best investments you can make.

Learn more about Adobe’s commitment to enterprise document security here.