Is this a collection of existing PDFs you want to protect? If so, forget Acrobat, forget Word and forget PDF security: use operating system security to make the files (AND folder) read-only.
Mainly these are single documents, no collections. Employment contracts for example.
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You can configure the Acrobat PDFMaker plugin for Microsoft Word to apply encryption to PDF files by default - just go to the Acrobat>Preferences menu in Word, and set it on the Security tab.
If you want to apply encryption to a large number of existing files you can do that with Actions in Acrobat Pro.
Thanks Dave! Your hint pushed me to the right solution. As PDFMaker always terminated my Word, I tried using the printer device "Adobe PDF". In it's setting I was able to set security settings by default. When printing the PDF from Word or any other application via "Adobe PDF", these files are secured by default.
Thanks again for your help.