What is Document Security? Why Should You Care?

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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Document security has become a critical aspect of safeguarding sensitive information in today’s digital age. As organizations increasingly rely on electronic documents and cloud-based storage, they need to make sure that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of these files is well preserved.

Document security refers to the practice of safeguarding digital and physical documents from unauthorized access, modification, and disclosure. It involves implementing measures such as encryption, access controls, and secure storage to ensure the confidentiality of documents and protect them against data breaches and unauthorized use.

Companies that still rely on paper documents are jeopardizing their most valuable asset. Paper documents are easily misplaced, lost, or destroyed for a variety of reasons. Whether due to human error, natural disasters, or deliberate actions, the fragility of paper documents emphasizes the urgent need for organizations to transition to more secure digital practices.

Digital documents, on the other hand, necessitate security procedures that are distinct from those required for physical documents. It will be easier to handle them if you use software like a document management system or enterprise content management software.

Document Security
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Why Is Document Security Important?

Protecting documents is crucial to safeguarding confidential data from unauthorized access and ultimately getting exposed to the public. In an era marked by frequent cyber threats and data breaches, robust security measures are essential to prevent financial loss and legal consequences.

Ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of documents not only preserves the trust of clients, customers, and stakeholders but also helps companies comply with various privacy regulations. From intellectual property and financial records to personally identifiable information, the stakes are high, making it an indispensable component of overall information management strategies.

As pe Statista, in 2022, the number of data compromises in the United States stood at 1802 cases. Meanwhile, over 422 million individuals were affected in the same year by data compromises, including data breaches, leakage, and exposure. 


Types of document security

The different types of securing documents are:

#1- Documents or files encryption

Encryption involves converting the content of a document into an unreadable format using a unique encryption key. Only individuals with the correct key or password can decrypt and access the information.

This process adds an extra layer of protection, especially when documents are transmitted or stored in the cloud. Even if an unauthorized party gains access to the encrypted file, the content remains unreadable without the decryption key.

Encryption is an effective preventive measure, particularly in industries where data privacy is a critical concern, ensuring that even if a security breach occurs, the exposed information remains secure and confidential.

#2- Digital rights management (DRM)

DRM enables content creators and organizations to define and enforce specific permissions and restrictions on their documents, preventing unauthorized copying, sharing, or modification.

Through encryption and access controls, DRM ensures that only authorized individuals or devices can access and interact with sensitive documents. This not only protects against unauthorized sharing but also allows for the tracking and monitoring of document usage.

It also often includes features like document expiration dates and dynamic watermarking, further enhancing security measures.

#3- Watermarking

Watermarking plays a pivotal role by embedding visible or invisible markings onto digital or physical documents. These markings contain information such as the document’s origin, ownership, or status.

Visible watermarks serve as a discouraging factor as it signals ownership and discouraging unauthorized use or distribution. Invisible watermarks, on the other hand, are detectable only through specialized tools, providing a covert layer of security.

By integrating watermarking into file security plans, organizations add an extra layer of protection, making it more challenging for malicious actors to exploit or misuse sensitive materials.

#4- Well defined access control

Most document management systems allow administrators to regulate access to digital documents at both the folder and document template levels.

First, you need to categorize your users into groups and set the correct permission of this group into the folder or document template level. In this way, only users belonging to the group will be able to view, modify, download, or update metadata on this document.

From my experience, as the number of users grows, it becomes more difficult to remember the access rights for each group, which is why I recommended to create a document matrix that indicates each group the access permissions on available folders.

Always remember to grant access to groups, not individuals.

Document Security Matrix

#5- Document audit trail

Document audit trail provides a comprehensive record of all activities related to a document, from creation to modification and access. It offers transparency and accountability by logging details such as who accessed the document, when it was accessed, and what changes were made.

In the event of a security breach or unauthorized access, the audit trail serves as a forensic tool, enabling organizations to trace and investigate the source of the incident.

Feel free to check this in-depth article: Master Your DOCUMENT VERSION CONTROL in 5 Minutes (theecmconsultant.com)

#6- Metadata based document security

Metadata-based security is a proactive approach that leverages embedded information within documents to enhance security measures. It includes details such as document authorship, creation dates, and revision history.

This approach allows for dynamic adjustments to security settings, providing flexibility in managing document permissions. This is especially useful when you need to hide important information on a document, such as salaries, budget, and net profit, from everyone except department leaders.

#7- Develop a record retention policy

Records retention refers to the strategies and practices used by companies to save significant information for a certain amount of time for administrative, financial, legal, and historical purposes.

It applies to both physical documents and electronic records such as word documents, spreadsheets, scanned papers, and videos.


Maintaining strong levels of document security is critical for all companies. Without it, your competitors may obtain sensitive information such as client data, or workers may have access to information they should not, such as salary or performance reports.

Implementing an organization-wide document management best practices can reduce the worry of leaking sensitive material to the public to a larger extent.

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