Wednesday, April 14, 2010

PDF Security Hole:
Hacking Into Copy & Print 'Locked' PDFs

I was hoping I was wrong, but this is what I learned today:

Anyone can hack around a password required to copy from or print a PDF. Anyone.

Thankfully, the full locking of a PDF remains unhacked. The 'Open' password is still required.

A hacking tool that allows you to hack copy and print permissions is today's Mac Update Promo deal of the day. It is called PDFKey Pro. (48% off the regular price of $24.99). This program is a hacking tool that clearly points out a fundamental security hole in the PDF format. Therefore, I see no point in using PDF password for copy and print protection. It's worthless.

Please note that I am not knocking hacking tools. I am not knocking PDFKey Pro. The way it is being sold sounds entirely legitimate. The fact that copy and print PDF protections can be entirely defeated has nothing to do with the developer of this application. It has 100% to do with Adobe. Yeah, I know some people are tired of the onslaught of knocking against Adobe these days. Tough. This is a big fat and ugly nasty problem. Adobe are responsible.

In the past I've talked with both David Pogue and Adam Engst about selling electronic books. David Pogue and I talked about selling protected PDFs as one option. He decided at the time to try Adam Engst's method of simply trusting the customer. As an opponent of DRM (digital rights manglement), I agree with Adam. However, authors and publishers are entirely within their rights to prevent anyone from being able to copy from or print their documents and books.

Therefore, if you want to lock up the copy and print permissions of your docs, look elsewhere. There are plenty of great locking and encryption tools for Mac, but I'm not aware of anything that only prevents copying and printing.

I'd very much enjoy reading an analysis of how PDF protection is hacked. Something tells me it's already out there on the net for any hacker to read and use. What a shame.

1 comment:

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