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Posts Tagged ‘encryption’

How To: Copy Protect PDF Files

This article will overview PDF copy protection and the available options. A couple of things worth mentioning before getting into the details:

  • Encryption is different than copy protection. Encryption is a technology solution where the PDF owner assigns a password to the document and after the user enters that password the user can do anything they want with the file. Print, share, screen capture, etc. The idea for encryption is the document being unattainable until a password is entered.
  • Copy protection does not use a password and anyone can see the file. However; the file cannot be copied, printed, shared or screen captured. The idea behind copy protection is the PDF being viewed by anyone, but nothing can be done with the file. When people are searching for PDF copy protection, this is the solution most likely sought after.

PDF or Portable Document Format is an open standard. What this means is the document format was designed to be used in just about any document reader program. The goal for the PDF specification was to make the format as universal as possible. For this reason, it is a bit more difficult than one would think to copy protect a PDF file.

Windows comes pre-installed with Adobe Reader. In addition, Windows has embedded Adobe API code to read PDF files. Even if Adobe Reader was not installed on your computer, or uninstalled, the underlying code is still there to open a PDF. In additional to Adobe Reader (#1 PDF reader in the market) there are dozens of additional PDF reader programs. Again, the goal for all these readers is to open and read a portable document file.

Adobe copy protection solutions are very well known for being cracked. If you Google “Adobe copy protection crack” you will find pages of ways the Adobe security features are compromised. Here and here are two examples of Google search results with web pages dedicated to hacking.

The fundamental problem with copy protection are the lack of controls when viewing a PDF. Meaning a PDF content owner (you) does not have the control over Adobe Reader, or other programs, to stop the user (your client/customer/student) from printing, screen grabbing, sharing and saving.

The idea behind a PDF copy protection solution is a framework where the PDF can be opened and viewed, while you (the content owner) maintains control of the document.

Of course Adobe Reader, FoxIt Reader and others, will not provide the tools to block a user from printing or saving from within their program. In contrast, we need a “reader” or “viewer” with controls to block those functions.

With this in mind, it is difficult to provide a reader with these security functions. Most users who receive a PDF do not want to download and install another program just to read a PDF file. The ease and beauty of a PDF gets lost in that process. No longer is the PDF a portable document format. In addition, a software program that can be downloaded to view a PDF can also be downloaded by a hacker to be reverse engineered. There needs to be something more than just a secure reader/viewer to control the PDF.

The most secure way to copy protect a PDF file is to associate it with something physical. There are some software (only) solutions, but those are not as secure as a solution with something physical.

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TiSTICK – The Over Kill USB Flash Drive

The TiSTICK is currently available on Kickstarter. Here is your summary update if interested:

The flash drive has a titanium case, made of very durable material, has 256AES hardware encryption, available in several large GB capacities and is getting near full funding on Kickstarter.

We like the shape, we like the magnet on the tail of the drive, and we like the look. Great marketing and certainly sets itself apart from the rest of the “durable” flash drives. So well done Jörg Lingg.

In our humble opinion a bit over kill, but that is only our opinion. The following drive is made of aluminum, has been ran over multiple times with a car, and still works fine with it’s Alcor controller with encryption functionality.

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USB Connected Fire Safe

SentrySafe is the first [I think] Safe manufacturer to include USB connectivity for external access.  We’ll get to the USB portion soon enough, but lets take a look at the physical characteristics of the SentrySafe Fire-Safe.

usb safe sentrysafe

In the picture above, I am talking about the larger two Safes in the back.  The sizes are available in 1.2 or 2.0 cu feet sizes.  Are fire resistant for up to 2 hours and can sit in water up to 8 inches.  A perfect Safe for the home or office. Now on to the USB Safe portion:  Sizing allows for 120CDs or DVDs with door pockets to hold hard drives.  In the door pocket sits USB connectivity to an external USB port.  From here, outside of safe, you have digital access to the hard drives inside.  This is a nice twist for those who need high security for their hard drives. However, and I can see it now, you need to encrypt your hard drive.  Saving your digital data physically is only half the battle.  Here is some free open source USB encryption software that’ll work great with any hard drive. As a closing note, if you have a window office spot, and the safe happens to fall out during an blaze, she’s good for a drop up to 30 feet.  Cost is $420  for the 1.2 cu ft and $520 for the 2.0 cu ft version. SentrySafe USB Fire Safe Photo Source: GizMag Continue Reading

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