Last Updated on 8 months by Komolafe Bamidele
Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A’s) are a tricky business. most especially adding DRM to a PDF.
As well as needing to thoroughly assess liquidity, build transition teams, and ensure clear communication, organizations must balance what they do and don’t disclose.
Any document disclosed to an interested party is one that could potentially leak and do damage, but disclosing too little and you may be accused of being misleading.
It’s absolutely vital, then, that any documents you do share are protected as much as possible from leakage and disclosure to unauthorized parties.
As well as sharing and copying controls, you may need to revoke access after a certain date (bidding rounds),
prove that a party has viewed a particular document, or display dynamic, identifiable watermarks to dissuade leaks.
Tables Of Contents
DRM in PDF Encryption is Not Enough
Though Adobe allows you to encrypt documents with a password and provides basic printing and editing controls, these are trivially bypassed and only protect part of the process.
Once an encrypted document is decrypted by the recipient it can easily be shared, copied, or otherwise modified – this is even if you have applied PDF restrictions to prevent this.
As a result, encryption should only be one aspect of the protection you employ.
The implementation of said encryption is also important, with Elcomsoft’s password cracker able to break 48-bit encryption in seconds.
Secure Data/Deal Rooms Aren’t as Secure as you Think
Secure deal rooms are often marketed as the best way to secure M&A documents, but you should be aware that their protection is far from all-encompassing.
This is why secure data room providers tend to focus on the security of their servers, rather than the security they offer documents.
Among other things, secure data rooms have the following flaws:
- You have to upload unprotected documents to a cloud server that is out of your control
- Most secure deal rooms use password authentication. Passwords and even two-factor codes and login cookies can easily be shared with others for unauthorized access.
- Content is typically only protected via SSL during the transfer to the server and sits on it unencrypted once it arrives. Often, unprotected content is cached locally on a user’s machine, where they can extract and share it.
Of course, to use secure data rooms, users must also be online, which may or may not work for your organization.
What is DRM in PDF – and What to Look For?
In most circumstances, then, organizations that need total security for their M&A documents are best served with a PDF DRM solution.
Through this, they can eliminate the use of passwords and rely instead on a key-based licensing system.
Once keys are securely transferred to authorized devices, they can be locked to those devices, ensuring that nobody else can open the document.
As a result, even if the user shares their document with someone else, they’ll be unable to open it and unable to reuse the license key.
This has the added benefit of reduced management and better security practices, as users don’t need to find ways to remember the password for each PDF document.
Importantly, your organization also maintains full control and transparency over document distribution.
Good PDF DRM solutions will avoid the browser, meaning no files must be uploaded to a third-party server, and that they’re protected if you decide to do so.
In addition to this, though, companies securing M&A transactions should look for the following controls:
- Screenshot and copying prevention: To prevent the sharing of high-quality images and text of your PDF documents.
- Print limitations: This includes blocking physical printing or limiting it to a certain number of copies, but also preventing printing to file drivers, which is not possible to stop with secure deal rooms.
- Offline use: Forcing users to be online slows down the process and is unnecessary with the right tools.
- Device and location locking: By finding a PDF DRM solution that can lock documents to certain IP addresses and IP addresses ranges, you can be sure they never leave the office or device of the intended recipient, aiding compliance and litigation.
- Document expiry: In M&A it’s often important to have documents available for only a predetermined period. You’ll want a DRM solution that can expire documents both on a set date and a certain number of days after opening.
- Track and log document use: See when, where, and by whom documents are opened or printed, with logs for later analysis.
Though not every PDF DRM solution offers these controls. finding one that does will ensure that your documents are protected regardless of whether they’re housed on cloud storage,
your internal network, the computer of an interested party, or the outside world.
This can mark the difference between a successful merger or acquisition and significant damage to the companies involved.
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