The right way to redact information in your PDF documents
– Written by Wim Temmerman
You have to protect sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. Often that’s simply good business practice, like if you’re sending out competitive data or responding to an RFP with company information.
Sometimes, you’re under legal obligation, such as when filing with government bodies. Most government agencies require you to “refrain from including or must redact where inclusion is necessary, all Social Security numbers, names of minor children, dates of birth and financial account numbers.” That means you have to be especially careful that any PDF documents you’re submitting are have all hidden, sensitive data removed.
Using the wrong method to redact your electronic file or even a printed document, means that information you assume you’ve removed is actually still visible, even searchable. Here are four methods NOT to use when redacting information:
- Making the font color white seems as though the sensitive information you’re trying to protect has disappeared, but it’s not effective. The words in question are still there.
- Leaving metadata in your PDF document. All word-processing programs keep metadata. That’s data that summarises basic information about the data in your file. It can be as innocuous as date created and date modified. Or it can be as problematic as the actual content you’re trying to redact. If you don’t purge this information from your document, anyone can view it, even after it’s been converted to PDF.
- Using graphic and “commenting” tools that can black-out, cover over or remove sections of text. These “edits” can still be removed by anyone to reveal the text underneath.
- Inking out or using semi-translucent tape or paper to cover areas of a printed document. If you’re going to scan it, it can still sometimes show enough information for someone to see what you were trying to remove.
The right way to redact: Foxit Redactor for Office, part of Foxit PDF Security Suite, Operating as a plug-in for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, this software lets you create truly secure PDFs simply by selecting sensitive information or areas to redact and then generating a redacted PDF document in which that sensitive data has been properly removed.
Readers will see your document in redacted format in any popular PDF viewer. No graphics overlaying sensitive text. No ink marking that leaves data vulnerable underneath. And no metadata users can still view.
If you prefer, you can create a hybrid RMS-protected PDF document that will make the redacted content visible to anyone with an RMS-enabled PDF reader and the right credentials and authorisation. You can also use it to create regular (non-redacted) PDFs and add password/certificate protection in Microsoft Outlook and Visio.
Proper redaction goes beyond good business practice. It can be a matter of protecting confidential business information, company secrets and even complying with federal mandates to remove sensitive information from view by prying eyes. Let Foxit Redactor for Office give you peace of mind you’re using proper redaction methods.