Skip to main content

What Is Document Security?

Posted on Monday May 16, 2022

Contact Us
Free Demo

What Is Document Security?

Document security is the procedures and storage protocols set up to protect either a physical or digital document which includes how it will be stored, shared, and discarded. This security is important so the owner can control who has access.

Document security seeks to protect documents and comply with regulatory requirements for privacy and safety.

It involves a file management process to restrict access, especially to sensitive or private content. File security entails managing these files securely however they are stored, processed, or transmitted to mitigate security threats.

Why Is Document Security Important?

Documents face a myriad of threats from many malicious actors. Thieves, cybercriminals, and organized crime syndicates want to steal identification details to gain access to financial gateways like bank account logins and credit card information.

Confidential data provided to businesses by their customers and employees needs to be kept under tight privacy protocols. Businesses risk lawsuits and reputational damage if this information is compromised.

Intellectual property is a competitive advantage on which the prosperity of companies and nations depends in an increasingly global marketplace. Therefore, organizations don’t want their business secrets and intellectual property to fall into the hands of competitors through espionage.

All this valuable and sensitive information is invariably stored in digital documents.

Document security seeks to prevent these incidents by protecting files from unauthorized access and reducing the risk of data loss, leakage, and exposure.

Types of Document Security

Different documents require different levels of protection. Overall, the type of security documents require are the five pillars of information assurance:

  1. Confidentiality: Confidentiality means the information in the file remains private. The secrecy required to shield the file’s content from those who aren’t authorized to view it is enforced with encryption.
  2. Integrity: Integrity ensures a file hasn’t been inadvertently or intentionally modified, whether at rest or during transmission. Hash functions use a hash value to verify the integrity of the data within the document.
  3. Availability: Adequate security measures ensure documents are available to authorized users when needed. This means that threats, like denial-of-service attacks, have to be thwarted to ensure documents on websites are available to those who need to access them.
  4. Authentication: Authentication compels those who attempt to access documents to prove that they are who they say they are. This requires robust identity management. Most organizations now implement multi-factor authentication to strengthen authentication.
  5. Nonrepudiation: This ensures that the parties involved in a transaction cannot deny their participation. Hence, a security system should be able to prove that someone sent, viewed, or modified a file. Nonrepudiation is achieved through digital signatures, logging, and audit trails.

Components of Document Security

A document protection system contains several components that facilitate its mission to protect documents. Some of these help to restrict access to only authorized users, while other components control permissions on who can modify a file.

Here are the security components typically used in these security systems:

  • Encryption and license controls: Encryption uses cryptographic algorithms and keys to scramble or encrypt a file’s content so that it becomes unreadable. Hence, only valid users and recipients, who possess the correct cryptographic key, can decrypt and view the file’s contents.
  • Document rights management: DRM is a perimeter-based security model that seeks to protect documents and content from copyright infringements and intellectual property violations. Its objective is to restrict the access of digital content to only those who have assumed rightful ownership, typically through purchase or authorship.
  • Document tracking: For a document to be truly protected, both within and outside the corporate perimeter, a business needs to have full visibility into its movement and chain of custody. One of the ways this visibility is achieved is through tracking the document to know who has accessed and viewed it and for how long these transactions have occurred.
  • Password protection: From a user access perspective, enabling password protection is the first step in document protection. It is the first security barrier to prevent unauthorized access to files. Moreover, it is relatively simple to implement, although not entirely foolproof.
  • Document expiry, restriction of access, and self-destruction: Limiting access to documents based on time duration and permissions provides immense advantages for security.
  • Watermarking: Watermarking has several applications beyond the use as a trademarking device. One of its basic functions is to clearly communicate the document’s classification. Hence, it leaves the recipients with little doubt as to how the document should be treated. A document marked with a “confidential” watermark signals a certain degree of secrecy.
  • Information rights management: Information rights management is a subset of DRM and it focuses on zero-trust security for collaborative files. Information Rights Management security travels with the document wherever it goes, equipped with identity access management techniques to ensure user permissions are enforced.

Implementing Document Security at Each Stage of the Document Life Cycle

There are several phases involved in document protection. At each stage of a file’s life cycle, organizations face the danger of the document being stolen, lost, or compromised.

Therefore, businesses need to have full visibility into how their documents are produced, processed, stored, and consumed—i.e., throughout the entire document life cycle:

1. The Capture Phase

This is the equivalent of the “onboarding” of information to produce the document. This phase encompasses creating and saving files in an application. Activities at this stage also include scanning to transfer hard copy documents to electronic format.

2. The Storage Phase

Electronic-based document storage provides a lot of opportunities for centralized record management and better oversight. For instance, storage in database systems provides the capacity for search capabilities and normalization to reduce redundancy.

3. The Management Phase

One of the most important things for file protection, especially in a distributed system is adequate management. Management helps to provide supervision and control over the document protection system.

What facilitates security during this phase are user roles, permissions, version control, and audit trails. These elements have a way of reinforcing one another to provide all-around document protection management.

Ultimately, without this phase of a document security system, elements like user permissions will be difficult to enforce.

4. The Preserve Phase

Document preservation requires monitoring and maintenance of the digital repositories where they are stored. In most cases, file retention is required by law. And in some instances, documents are legally required to be preserved for a couple of years.

5. The Delivery Phase

The delivery phase emphasizes sharing and collaboration. The delivery phase is important when it’s necessary to share information between contractors, allies, and other business partners.

6. The Integration Phase

In the current digital economy, it’s imperative for applications and documents to be able to “play well” and collaborate with others. This is because there’s a certain specialization of roles and division of labor since a single application can’t supply all the expertise needed to support user aspirations.

This is why there’s a proliferation of application program interfaces in software to facilitate integration between applications. Likewise, the integration phase allows files to communicate and exchange information with other applications.

Document Security Measures That Every Business Needs

Remote work and "bring your own device" have increasingly become part of the fabric of the modern workforce. Along with these paradigm shifts come more security risks because of an organization’s increased surface of attack exposure, thereby making their documents more vulnerable.

Here are some of the security measures organizations can implement to address the challenge of workforce mobility:

1. Intrusion Detection Systems

Malicious actors are using more sophisticated attack vectors that can operate in stealth mode. Most businesses don’t have a clue they have been breached, sometimes even months after the fact.

Therefore, an added layer of document protection is justified by investing in an intrusion detection system to monitor your network. These systems alert you to suspicious behavior that is indicative of a system breach.

2. Mobile Device Management

Mobile devices are more prone to being lost or stolen compared to desktop computers situated in the company’s office. When mobile devices are lost, the business’s documents and confidential information stored in them are placed at risk.

This is where mobile device management comes in handy. MDM allows organizations to have centralized control and access over mobile devices, with the ability to remotely wipe them if they are compromised.

3. Centralized Management

Centralized management provides a robust, focused security framework. It makes it easier to protect documents by keeping the files secure in one location. Also, centralized management fortifies document protection by restricting access through role-based controls.

In addition to being awful for security, a lack of centralized document storage is bad for productivity and regulatory compliance. This is because regulation demands businesses to take adequate steps to ensure their data is secure. Hence, maintaining regulatory requirements entail an in-depth knowledge of where your data is stored, located, and who has access to it.

4. Multi-factor Authentication

Passwords are easily compromised by a variety of factors ranging from social engineering and phishing attacks, insider threats and compromise, and user carelessness through recycled passwords.

Multi-factor authentication was designed to fortify the process of user identification with additional layers of security. In this form of authentication, a user is only granted access to a document, website, or application after they have provided two or more pieces of evidence to verify their identity.

Generally, multi-factor authentication requires individuals to prove their identity using a combination of two or more of the following factors:

  • A knowledge factor: Something the person knows. The most commonly used method is by supplying a username and password combination. It can also involve PINs or providing some type of shared secret.
  • A possession factor: Something the person has, usually in the form of a security token, an ID card, or a mobile phone.
  • A biometric factor: Something peculiar to the individual’s physical self. This could be using fingerprints, facial recognition, speech patterns in voice recognition, or even keystroke dynamics.
  • A location factor: This limits authentication attempts based on geographic locations. This is often based on GPS locations or IP addresses of the device being used to access the document or web application.

How Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration Helps Businesses Protect Digital Documents

It has never been more critical to protect sensitive files because business documents face a lot of threats from a multitude of sources.

Unfortunately, most popular document and file-sharing programs like Dropbox and Google Drive lack most of the security features enumerated in this article. A clear example is information rights management, which protects documents outside the confines of an application sandbox.

Moreover, these document-sharing programs are devoid of sophisticated security measures, such as the ability to enforce permissions against taking screenshots or photographs of a document’s content.

In contrast, Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration is taking document security to new heights, with a data-agnostic and always-on security architecture. Unlike other document security tools, our secure collaboration functionality combines a seamless end-user experience with a flexible security framework that protects your information anywhere your documents travel.

Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration is at the forefront of secure file collaboration, allowing you to share files securely with whomever you choose. Our powerful encryption allows you to secure intellectual property across supply chains, thereby keeping your mind at ease without slowing down workflows. Our software also provides granular control that allows you to implement policy directly to the data itself.

In addition, unlike traditional DRM tools, our product is highly scalable and adapts to any kind of data. Therefore, it can easily fit into your business environment and existing technology platforms.

To learn more about securing documents and data, read our white paper.

Tags:  Compliance

Recommended Resources

The Definitive Guide to DLP

All the essential information you need about DLP in one eBook.

The Ultimate Guide to Data Protection

Everything you need to know about data protection but were afraid to ask.