IT managers rate data security as their biggest concern

Johannesburg, 18 Jan 2024
Having secure PDF documents in the business world is essential.
Having secure PDF documents in the business world is essential.

Creating and sharing documents outside of the office is becoming the new normal. This increases the requirements for trustworthy and secure communication. The importance of secure PDF documents in the business world cannot be overstated.

In a 2023 report from London Research on behalf of Adobe among German, French and British IT managers, data security was the biggest concern (86%) of all respondents, while (75%) considered the topic to be more important than it was a year ago.

As a long-standing, experienced partner in document security, Adobe understands this new need for digital resilience. The security, integrity and availability of systems and data are at the heart of Adobe Document Cloud.

The need for PDF document security

Unsecured PDFs present various risks that can have far-reaching consequences for organisations. These include:

  • Reputational damage due to data breaches.
  • Compliance risks resulting from non-adherence to data protection laws.
  • Operational disruptions from malware or data loss.
  • Financial repercussions due to these incidents.

Adobe Acrobat's array of features such as Protected Mode and JavaScript Security address these risks by providing a secure environment for PDF creation, editing and sharing. This helps companies maintain their reputation and comply with stringent regulatory requirements.

Organisations can adopt a much stronger security footprint with Adobe’s multi-layered approach. This approach includes:

  • Advanced features such as encryption for data protection.
  • Redaction tools for removing sensitive information.
  • Access control measures to restrict unauthorised use.

These features ensure that PDFs are not only secure but also maintain their integrity across different platforms and devices. Adobe puts great emphasis on cloud security standards like the German cloud standard C5, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). This further reinforces its commitment to providing a secure digital document environment, ensuring that businesses can confidently manage their PDF documents with minimal risk.

Common PDF security threats

Threats to PDF security range from unauthorised access and data loss to malware attacks. One of the most significant threats to PDF security is unauthorised access. This occurs when sensitive information contained within PDF documents falls into the wrong hands, either due to:

  • Weak passwords
  • Phishing attacks, or
  • Insufficient user permissions

Such breaches not only compromise the confidentiality of the data, but also put the organisation at risk of non-compliance with data protection regulations.

PDFs can also be a carrier for malware and viruses. Attackers often embed malicious code within PDFs, which can be activated when the document is opened. This can result in the compromise of an entire network, leading to data theft, corruption of files and other harmful outcomes.

The versatile nature of PDFs, capable of containing various types of content including hyperlinks and multimedia, makes them an attractive target for cyber criminals.

Another critical threat is the tampering of document contents. Unauthorised users may alter the information in a PDF, leading to misinformation or fraudulent activities. Ensuring the integrity of a PDF document is vital, particularly in contexts where the authenticity of information is paramount.

PDF security best practices

Best practices in PDF security involve implementing robust encryption, access controls and regular audits. Adobe Acrobat excels in these areas by providing:

  • Tools for secure cloud storage and document editing.
  • Compliance with security standards like POPIA, C5 and GDPR.

One of the fundamental steps in securing PDFs is the implementation of strong encryption. This ensures that the content of the PDF is unreadable to unauthorised users. Alongside encryption, setting robust access controls helps define who can view, edit or share documents, preventing unauthorised access and data leaks.

Keeping PDF readers and editors up to date is crucial. Software updates often include patches for newly discovered security vulnerabilities. Regular updates help in safeguarding against potential exploits that attackers might use to infiltrate systems via PDFs.

Human error is a significant factor in document security breaches. Training employees on the best practices for handling PDFs, recognising phishing attempts and understanding the importance of using secure passwords and handling confidential information correctly can greatly reduce the risk of security incidents.

Adobe Acrobat's security features

Adobe’s integration with cloud services like AWS and Azure facilitates secure, flexible document management.

The sandboxing principle in Adobe's PDF solutions provides an additional layer of security against cyber threats. Sandboxing is a technique for confining the execution environment of untrusted programs and processes. In the world of Adobe’s PDF products, an ‘untrusted program’ is any PDF and the processes it invokes. With sandboxing enabled, Adobe assumes all PDFs are potentially malicious and confines any processing they invoke to the sandbox.

Adobe Acrobat also employs Protected Mode, another security feature that isolates PDF processing to prevent malicious code from executing. Additionally, its JavaScript security helps mitigate risks from scripts embedded in PDFs, offering an extra layer of defence against cyber threats.

Acrobat provides robust encryption capabilities to secure the content of PDFs. It also includes redaction tools, allowing users to permanently remove sensitive information from documents, ensuring that confidential data doesn't get exposed accidentally.

Adobe Acrobat aligns with major cloud security standards, like C5 and GDPR. This compliance reassures users that their document handling meets rigorous data security and privacy requirements.


The importance of securing PDF documents cannot be overstated. Adobe Acrobat offers a comprehensive, reliable solution that meets the highest standards of security and compliance. With its advanced features like Protected Mode, robust encryption and compliance with international security standards, Adobe Acrobat creates a powerful security network. This not only safeguards your data but also strengthens your organisation's reputation and compliance posture.

For further information or an obligation-free product demonstration, please contact Bishen Gosai | Adobe Sign Specialist on (082) 847 8733 or e-mail