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Secure Alternatives to Passwords for Sensitive Documents

Apr 27, 2021 6:58 AM 4 min read

For decades, security experts have repeatedly warned about the catastrophic consequences of using passwords when accessing sensitive documents, data files and information. Single passwords taken from the dictionary can easily be guessed and cracked by cybercriminals using simple automated hacking tools. And despite the warnings, such passwords continue to proliferate, thus resulting in data breaches worldwide.

Password usage and data security

And while in theory, we know how to address weak passwords, such as establishing policies governing the nature of passwords, ensuring that users employ longer and more complex passwords or use a password manager, the manner in which these passwords are stored on paper, or electronic devices is another risk that is rarely addressed.

Especially in the case of confidential data and PDF files, the pros of having a robust and reliable password far surpass its cons. Combining a long and complex password with multifactor authentication can also magnify defences, especially when data and document security is of supreme importance. However, there is one grave error or weakness with regard to passwords that has remained unaddressed over the years. Besides, its adverse effects are now extremely evident from recent data breaches: people reuse passwords and do not change them for months or years. In fact, research reveals that even on non-compromised systems, identical passwords that have been used on them have been breached elsewhere.

This lack of data hygiene has resulted in ominous consequences for a number of individuals and organisations. Computing systems have been breached; data files have been stolen, confidential information and financial credentials have been taken from unsuspecting victims as hackers feed on lists of compromised username and password combinations from one data file to another.

And this is not confined to small businesses or individuals; even large organisations continue to ignore data hygiene despite data breaches and recommendations. For instance, within hours of the launch of Disney+ video streaming service, hackers began to sell stolen access credentials on the dark web. While there is no evidence to show that Disney+ itself was breached, stolen credentials obtained by hackers were available for sale simply because the combinations of username and password were leaked during another data breach.


Passwords are no longer relevant in today's digital age

The reusing of passwords is a significant issue worldwide, even on computing systems that support data security solutions such as multifactor authentication technologies. Not every user would benefit from improved data security features if they are the ones who inappropriately use passwords. Besides, reused passwords that have been compromised can become handy tools for social engineering, wherein a hacker impersonates a technical support representative and deceives an unsuspecting victim by providing the victim with the password as a proof, that the call is from an authorised representative of the company.

This goes to show that passwords are no longer relevant in today's digital age in securing documents and data files. What works is a proven and tested data security solution such as digital rights management and document copy protection software that can safeguard your data files and protect PDF documents from cybercriminals. As a proactive document security technology, DRM can protect your data from being stolen or compromised by ensuring that all access and control rights remain with you. It can prevent even permitted users from editing, copying, distributing or printing your documents while offering you complete control in revoking access or applying dynamic watermarks when needed. This can ensure that your information stays safe from piracy or theft without the need for using passwords to protect your documents.


Why DRM matters now, more than ever

Avoid the practice of insecure passwords and use DRM to securely share your documents while enforcing access and usage control on your data regardless of its location. As individuals living in the modern world, it is more important now than ever to understand the relevance of document protection and data security. The contemporary world today is replete with danger, even in locations or areas where an individual might feel their data is secured or that they are away from the prying eyes of hackers and data thieves.

The future of work is now defining modern approaches to data threats. With the rise of cloud-connected employees, globalisation of the workforce, the increase of global knowledge workers and drastic changes in work culture are all impacting the relationship between data and organisations. Given the unique challenges, it is imperative to manage rapidly evolving data threat landscapes with proven and tested document security technologies such as DRM. Organisations that use digital rights management security software have achieved document security without the need for passwords while experiencing enhanced data protection of their sensitive information such as intellectual property and financial data while complying with regulatory requirements.


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