About document security

Document security ensures that only authorized users can use your documents. Using document security, you can safely distribute any information that you have saved in a supported format. Supported file formats include:

  • Adobe PDF files

  • FLV and F4V files for Adobe Flash®

  • Microsoft® Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files

  • Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 files

For more information about how policies protect supported file types, see Additional document security information .

Using document security, you can easily create, store, and apply predefined confidentiality settings to your documents. To prevent information from spreading beyond your reach, you can also monitor and control how recipients use your documents after you distribute them.

You can protect documents by using policies. A policy is a collection of information that includes confidentiality settings and a list of authorized users. The confidentiality settings you specify in a policy determine how a recipient can use a document to which you apply the policy. For example, you can specify whether recipients can print or copy text, edit text, or add signatures and comments to protected documents.

Document security users create policies through the end-user web pages. Administrators use the document security web pages to create policy sets that contain shared policies that are available to all authorized users.

Although policies are stored in document security, you apply them to documents through your client application. How to apply policies to PDF documents is described in detail in Acrobat Help . Applying policies by using other applications, such as Microsoft Office, is documented in the Acrobat Reader DC extensions Help for the application.

When you apply a policy to a document, the confidentiality settings specified in the policy protect the information that the document contains. The confidentiality settings also protect any files (text, audio, or video) within a PDF document. You can distribute the policy-protected document to recipients who are authorized by the policy.

Document access control and auditing

Using a policy to protect a document gives you ongoing control over that document, even after you distribute it. You can monitor the document, make changes to the policy, prevent users from continuing to access the document, and switch the policy that is applied to the document.

Through document security, you can monitor policy-protected documents and track events, such as when an authorized or unauthorized user attempts to open the document.


Document security consists of a server and user interface:

Server: The central component through which document security performs transactions such as user authentication, real-time management of policies, and application of confidentiality. The server also provides a central repository for policies, audit records, and other related information.

Web pages: The interface where you create policies, manage your policy-protected documents, and monitor events that are associated with policy-protected documents. Administrators can also configure global options such as user authentication, auditing, and messaging for invited users, and manage invited user accounts.

The steps in the illustration are as follows:

  1. The document owner creates policies using the web pages. Document owners can create personal policies that are accessible only to them. Administrators and policy set coordinators can create shared policies within policy sets that are accessible to authorized users.

  2. The document owner applies the policy, and then saves and distributes the document. The document can be distributed by email, through a network folder, or on a website.

  3. The recipient opens the document in the appropriate client application. The recipient can use the document according to its policy.

  4. The document owner, policy set coordinator, or administrator can track documents and modify access to them using the web pages.

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