Google Docs is the world's most widely-used office software suite and it's also widely-used by people working in the creative industries, especially those publishing creative content.
Whether a team of writers producing a novel or a small team who want to share creative projects among themselves, they all depend on the collaboration tools they use to communicate.
For those who are using Google Docs, it's difficult to believe it's not secure, but that's exactly why it's so important to know how it works.
The purpose of these controls is to prevent or allow certain actions based on certain conditions being met. For example, if a user is marked as a co-author on a document but then does anything other than sending the document to the writer, they'll be denied the ability to edit the document.
These systems also typically prevent users from exporting or sharing the document as an editable document in any form, such as a PDF or text document.
All these controls are fine for keeping teams in check when it comes to collaborating on content, but there are some features that you can bypass to allow collaboration to continue if the document is sent to a writer whose permissions aren't yet in place.
One of these features is the 'Print for later' function, which allows the document to be shared, then 'forgot'.
When users are 'out of network', the document is turned into a PDF, which can then be downloaded.
The other, the 'More people' message, allows the document to be emailed to a set number of people, who are then allowed to view, edit and sign it, as long as they're not other co-authors.
The important thing to know is that these controls aren't fool proof, and if a user does something outside the parameters of their access, the document protection will fail. In fact, it's this feature that helped a hacker to steal users' personal information in 2014.
Luckily, there are some simple ways to avoid these issues. But it's worth noting that these features are complex and may also not be available in all countries.
Before you can determine if the Document Security Platform you're using is keeping your information safe, there are some features you should consider, including who is allowed to view and edit the document and who can send it, and what the restrictions are.
Why Google Docs and other document security platforms are not secure
According to a report titled the 'Digital Workplace In a Global World', one in three employees believe that their personal information could be hacked at their workplace.
The main reason for this is the interconnected nature of digital workplace platforms, as well as the 'freemium' style that many platforms offer. This means users don't always need to pay for the full version, so the initial price-point could be appealing.
In addition, these security features are often for non-work use, rather than for work use.
Additionally, it's worth noting that hackers can infect platforms via embedded macros, which can include a malicious link that installs software on a system.
And as if that wasn't enough, we've already seen Google Docs vulnerabilities, which has also been the source of other similar attacks.
Who is using Google Docs?
Unlike some file storage platforms, the vast majority of people using Google Docs are professionals who work in creative industries.
Business professionals are a larger contributor than students or those involved in technical tasks, as well as content creators who are using it as a tool to publish their work.
The latter is becoming more common, as the small screen and the use of digital tools means that the world's leading creative professionals are also able to publish their work to the web.
Just as the cloud means you no longer need to worry about having to back up files or download documents, the small screen makes it possible to use documents in virtual locations, such as Google Docs. Since it's a cloud-based product, document security platform providers must ensure that these platforms are safe for all users.
Some of the reasons why these platforms can be used by professionals include the document editing and sharing features, the accessibility and the multilingual capabilities.
Google Docs and other document collaboration platforms will also integrate with a number of other online platforms and services, including Dropbox, Evernote, iManage, Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.
Why you need a PDF DRM solution
Of course, the focus for most document security platform providers is the document protection. This protects against several different threats including hacking, viruses, malicious links and so on.
With this in mind, it's also important to consider that a PDF DRM solution isn't solely for protection against unauthorized access and copyright violations.
It also helps keep the document secure and encrypted. For example, if a document is stolen, it would be useless if it can't be decrypted. And a threat to the integrity of the document if the user can't be certain if they've got the original.
What are the benefits of a PDF DRM solution?
There are a number of key benefits to the use of a PDF DRM solution, including:
An integrated solution that protects against a number of security threats
The ability to keep the document secure and encrypted
Extensibility and customisation options
Robust capabilities to support different file formats
Automatic access control
Administrative tools for management and monitoring
Logs and activity analysis
Advance visibility into usage and cloud-based encryption to help protect information.
The best way to protect your Google Doc files is to convert them to PDF and protect them with a PDF DRM solution. PDF DRM can protect your Google Docs from unauthorized editing, printing, taking screenshots and misuse.
If you're a blogger or a publisher using Google Docs or other document platforms, a PDF DRM solution can help keep your data secure and you will no longer have to worry about how someone else can add your content to their document, or abuse the printing and sharing capabilities.
It is recommended to regularly re-assess your document security posture to ensure you have the appropriate controls in place.