25 Replies Latest reply on Jul 10, 2013 4:53 PM by IsakTen

    Securing PDFs with passwords

    pixelmap

      I've been attempting to secure a document to prevent the copy - pasting of text, but it doesn't seem to work. I set the password, and then leave unchecked the tick box to enable copying and pasting of text. After saving the document, when I open it in Preview I can still copy and paste text.

       

      I've now tried this with copies of Acrobat Pro 7, Acrobat Pro 9, and Acrobat Pro X - none seem to work properly.

       

      Very frustrating - any help appreciated.

        • 1. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
          try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

          Preview is a buggy application. You should contact Apple and report this

          bug to them... There's nothing else to do about it.

          • 2. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
            pixelmap Level 1

            Ah, found the answer: don't use Acrobat Pro, use the native pdf maker in OS X.

             

            'Print to PDF', click security options, password protect copying and pasting, and you're done. The user is prompted for a password if they try to copy text.

             

            Super simple, and unlike the Acrobat Pro method, it actually WORKS.

            • 3. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
              try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

              You should do exactly the opposite, actually. Use Acrobat Pro and tell your users not to use Preview, but stick with Adobe software, like Reader. Preview will corrupt your PDF forms and does not follow the PDF specifications correctly.

              • 4. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                pixelmap Level 1

                Buggy? Because it doesn't respect Adobe's copy protection scheme? That's not a bug in Preview, that's a bug in Acrobat Pro.

                • 5. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                  pixelmap Level 1

                  A copy protection scheme that depends on me telling users not to use an application that comes free with every Macintosh computers doesn't seem very robust...

                  • 6. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                    try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                    PDF is an ISO standard, not a format owned by Adobe (any more). And yes, Preview is buggy because it's not following that standard correctly.

                    • 7. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                      try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                      Reader is a free application that can be installed by anyone, on any operating system...

                      Anyway, if Apple's buggy application works for you, that's fine. Just keep in mind your files might not work so well if someone with a PC tries to open them, or even someone on a Mac using Reader or another PDF viewer.

                      • 8. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                        pixelmap Level 1

                        Well, whether or not Preview follows an ISO standard or not, copy protection that can be broken that easily isn't copy protection at all.

                        • 9. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                          try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                          It's likely the security settings you apply with Preview (or Apple's PDF engine) are not going to work well (or at all) on other platforms. No technology is 100% secure... The closest you can get is by using DRM.

                          • 10. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                            pixelmap Level 1

                            Apple's application isn't buggy, Adobe's is: it is failing to prevent copy and pasting from a document that has been set to disable that.

                            • 11. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                              try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                              OK, if you say so... I think this discussion has ran its course.

                              • 12. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                pixelmap Level 1

                                I can appreciate that it isn't 100% secure. But given that it can be broken so easily, it's misleading to users to think they are copy protecting a document when they really aren't.

                                • 14. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                  Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                  The content copy restrictions entry as defined in ISO 32000 is a request to the rendering application not to allow copying. It does not encrypt the content, it is not designed to be in any way 'secure', but a compliant renderer must abide by the entry when it's present. OS X Preview fails to implement the ISO standard in this respect, but that's Apple's decision.  Apple have never claimed that their software is ISO-compliant, but Adobe Acrobat certainly is.

                                   

                                  When you apply a user (permissions) password using Adobe software you are shown a warning prompt explaining very clearly that third-party software may not respect it. If you dismiss the warning without bothering to read the warning, it's not Adobe's fault.

                                   

                                  If you want a PDF file to be truly secure against copying, you have to use DRM. That's why people with high-value documents pay a great deal of money for LiveCycle.

                                  • 15. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                    pixelmap Level 1

                                    'When you apply a user (permissions) password using Adobe software you are shown a warning prompt explaining very clearly that third-party software may not respect it. If you dismiss the warning without bothering to read the warning, it's not Adobe's fault.'

                                     

                                    Of course it's not Adobe's fault if other software doesn't respect it, but my point is that it's a pointless exercise doing it if a free program shipped with a popular brand of computer overrides it.

                                     

                                    Furthermore, I was also pointing out that there are better ways to accomplish the same thing - using the built pdf-maker in OS X.

                                     

                                    It may not be ISO-compliant - but it WORKS.

                                    • 16. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                      Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                      No, it's simply that Preview is recognizing its offspring. Open that PDF in other applications (Firefox, Safari, Foxit, EzPDF, etc) and see what happens.

                                      pixelmap wrote:

                                       

                                      Furthermore, I was also pointing out that there are better ways to accomplish the same thing - using the built pdf-maker in OS X.

                                       

                                      It may not be ISO-compliant - but it WORKS.

                                      • 17. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                        pixelmap Level 1

                                        Well, OS X's copy protection seems to work fine in Safari and Internet Explorer, but not in Firefox (Windows, OS X, Linux) - text can be copied. But then, in Firefox, text protected with Acrobat can be copied too.

                                         

                                        It would seem to be a tie - the copy protection in Acrobat and OS X work the same (badly) in Safari, IE and Firefox, except that OS X's also works in Preview.

                                         

                                        Haven't tried Foxit or EzPDF.

                                         

                                        Wouldn't it be nice to have something that worked for everything?

                                        • 18. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                          pixelmap Level 1

                                          Oh yes, and neither OS X's nor Acrobat's copy protection work with Linux Document Viewer - text can be copied out of pdf's that were made with either program.

                                          • 19. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                            try67 MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                            Wouldn't it be nice to have something that worked for everything?

                                            Good point. If only there was some sort on International Standard describing how it should be done and everyone would adhere to it...

                                            • 20. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                              Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                              Nice but impossible. The concept of an 'open standard' such as ISO 32000 is that anyone can build software to read the contents of a file. It's up to the programmer if they ignore some parts of the specification, so there will always be people releasing programs that ignore your permissions request. They may claim it's because they're anti-copyright or want to allow fair use, or that they just didn't have the time to write that bit of the code. Nobody can stop them.

                                               

                                              pixelmap wrote:

                                               

                                              Wouldn't it be nice to have something that worked for everything?

                                              • 21. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                                pixelmap Level 1

                                                It may be impossible to completely protect a file, but I thought that was what encryption was all about. I read about how Acrobat got a stronger level of encryption in more recent versions of the program, leading me to believe that it provided better protection. Then when I actually get into it, I learn that it's all a big joke. Instead of the little disclaimer at the beginning of that process, wouldn't it be better to simply put up a dialog box saying 'don't bother'?

                                                 

                                                Having a copy protection scheme that relies on all programmers following the rules is a bit like having a door lock system for your house that relies on the honesty of thieves.

                                                 

                                                Or maybe this is all just an advertisement for expensive DRM?

                                                • 22. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                                  IsakTen Level 4

                                                  Copy protection in PDF is a very old (perhaps 15 years old) technology. At that time Adobe Reader was the only game in town. As techology advanced the copy protection does not make sense anymore. Even with expensive DRM solutions you can always take a picture of the screen with your high-res cell phone camera, OCR the image, and then copy and paste it anywhere you want.

                                                  • 23. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                                    pixelmap Level 1

                                                    Of course, and I don't think anybody really thinks that preventing casual copying of text is secure copy protection. Anybody who is really determined will get it, but there is still a need to prevent people from casually copying and pasting the text from a document.

                                                     

                                                    Adobe suggests that this is possible with Acrobat Pro, though it warns that some third-party applications might not respect ISO standards.

                                                     

                                                    I would argue that they should go further than this: either make it truely impossible for users without the password to copy and paste the text, or give up entirely and tell us that any efforts in this regard are a complete waste of time.

                                                    • 24. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                                      IsakTen Level 4

                                                      The time you spent on this thread after you got the first expanation was a complete waste of time, as was mine trying to edicate you, which you refuse to do. Looks like you just like to vent.

                                                      What do you want: that Adobe removes this feature from Acrobat/Reader? Contact Adobe for that. This forum does not have the power to do that. Or use certified standards-compliaent software (like Adobe Reader). Or complain to Apple that they do not obey international standards. But do not waste time of other peoples who are trying to help you understand the reality of the situation.

                                                      • 25. Re: Acrobat Help | Securing PDFs with passwords
                                                        pixelmap Level 1

                                                        If I helped other users understand the uselessness of this feature in Acrobat it wasn't a complete waste of time.

                                                         

                                                        Do I expect Adobe to revise their program? It would be nice, but I'm not going to waste any time trying to convince them that they should.

                                                         

                                                        Am I going to complain to Apple that they should obey international standards? No, aside from being useless, I think it would be better to develop a standard that makes it possible to truly password protect copy/pasting.

                                                         

                                                        What WAS a waste of time was copy-protecting a bunch of documents for a website, only to find that what I did was completely useless.

                                                         

                                                        Thanks for your help in helping me understand the reality of the situation, but I learned most of it by attempting to copy protect documents and then testing them in a bunch of programs, only to find out that they weren't protected at all.