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Electronic Signatures

How to Sign a Secured PDF (and what is it?)

Will Cannon

Last updated on January 16, 2024

With the advancement of technology, information security is increasingly important for everyone using online services for business and personal reasons. An extra layer of protection for your PDFs can help you control who can view, modify, and print them. This article discusses how secured PDF files and e-signed files with electronic signatures can add a layer of protection. We will also show you how to sign a secured PDF.

Electronically or e-signing solutions are an easy way to prevent forgery and fraud while simultaneously ensuring the authenticity of digital documents like PDFs.

What Is A Secured PDF?

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A portable document format (PDF) is a standard file type that enables users to access, present, and exchange documents. PDFs can store write-ups, book pages, links, online sites, and images without too much space. 

PDFs can also be accessed with hardware, software, and operating systems such as macOS or Windows. Furthermore, you can save almost any document as a PDF by scanning the document in question or through computer software.

A secured PDF is a protected PDF. That means users are restricted from changing or performing certain actions on it. The PDF can be encrypted or require an access code in these cases. 

Organizations use secured PDFs to assure clients that their documents are authentic. The document is locked or protected if the PDF is signed with a digital ID or certificate to prevent changes. This protection is especially useful for legal and commercial contracts. 

PDF documents are secured to protect copyrighted documents, secure integrity, and authenticity when signing contracts, and prevent forgery and unauthorized people from viewing and modifying signed and classified data. 

PDF Security Levels 

PDFs can have different levels of security based on your own needs. These features can be simple while triggering sophisticated measures to limit those who can view and edit the file. 

Here are two common ways to protect documents:

Password-protected PDFs

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You can use a password to protect a PDF. This measure restricts a PDF to only certain users. You can also use password protection to limit those who can edit and print the document. However, password protection does not prevent unauthorized users from creating digital copies of password-protected PDFs. There are two kinds of passwords: 

A “Document Open” password. This allows a user to open and view the file. 

A  “Permissions” password. This can change permission details or settings. This measure also restricts the printing, copying, and editing of PDFs. Within this, you can configure permissions settings so anyone can view your file but only have limited functionalities. Unauthorized people cannot change the PDF’s settings if you set a password for your file. 

Encrypted PDF

An encrypted PDF protects its contents from unauthorized users. This mechanism uses access codes and encryption to hide data within the file, and only authorized users can see the encoded data using a password. Encryption requires two vital pieces of data: the cipher or algorithm and the key which allows them to decrypt the data.

Can You Digitally Sign A Secured PDF?

You no longer have to print, sign, and scan a file to sign it. Instead, you can use an electronic signature to fill up and sign your documents. This process can be done through certain configurations and security settings.

First, you must check the security settings. If the file is a password-protected PDF document, go to the “File” tab of Adobe Reader and click on “Properties.” Peruse the settings, then change the level of permissions. 

If the PDF is encrypted, you need special software to view the encrypted data and the file.  Luckily, software programs and apps can help you sign all PDFs–even encrypted ones. 

How To Sign a Secured PDF

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There are several ways to sign a secured PDF. One of the most basic methods is by entering a password. Knowing the document password can help you view its contents, but some documents may require an additional permissions password before you can execute more advanced functions.

If you can only view password-protected PDFs, use your “permissions password” to change the permission settings and sign the document. 

But what if you don’t have the password? Here are two of the easiest ways to sign secured PDFs electronically. 

How to Sign a Secured PDF With Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is the go-to software for all your PDFs. It’s also one of the easiest solutions for signing PDF documents. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Download your PDF file and make sure you have Acrobat or Acrobat Reader installed and downloaded to your PC or Mac. 
  2. Select the Fill and Sign tool from the Sign menu at the top. The Fill and Sign tool allows you to sign documents through any browser. 
  3. After clicking on the “Sign” button, click on “Sign Yourself.” You will then have the option to “Add Signature” or “Add Initial.
  4. You will then be navigated to a menu where you can type in your signature and modify it or select an image of your signature from your Mac or PC. 
  5. Click in the area of the PDF file where you want to insert your signature. Your selected signature will appear there.

How To Sign A Secured PDF Using Signaturely

Signaturely is a popular, free online signature app that helps users e-sign any document–even a secured PDF. A paid version of the app offers even more advanced features. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sign a PDF file with Signaturely:

  1. Create a free account through the Signaturely link. Log in, and then the app will give you three options: you can sign a document, send a document for others to sign, or send a document that you and others need to sign. 
  2. After selecting your relevant option, you will be taken to a page to upload your PDF document or import one from Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, or Box. During this step, you can also input the recipients’ names, insert a message for them, and configure the permissions.
  3. Once uploaded, you can add your signature, initials, date, any additional text, and checkbox fields. You can even specify who should sign each field.
  4. You or your signatories can insert a signature by clicking on these fields. 
  5. Depending on your chosen option, Signaturely may send the document to your other recipients. If you have specified other recipients and signatories, the app will guide them through the process, from creating their own digital signature to e-signing the designated areas.
  6. The app will conveniently provide you updates on who has signed and issue reminders on who has yet to sign.

Benefits of Using Signaturely Over Adobe

Signaturely is the newest e-signature program compared to Adobe software like Adobe Acrobat Reader DC and Adobe Reader DC. While Adobe Reader DC and Acrobat are ubiquitous and recognizable options, Signaturely has its trademarks for secure and efficient e-signatures. It was solely created for this purpose. 

Here, we explain why Signaturely  deserves industry recognition when it comes to routing and e-signing PDFs: 

Document Tracking and Updates

Signaturely tracks PDFs and updates all signatories on who still needs to sign. The owner, for instance, receives live reminders about who has not yet opened the document and who is signing it.

Centralized Site

Another feature why Signaturely Users prefer Signaturely over Adobe Reader DC software is that it keeps all of their documents in one place. There is no need to look through your Mac or Windows folders to review your documents. Logging in to your free Signaturely account allows you to find them all in one link.

Automatic Backups

Signaturely creates a legal audit log of all your unsigned documents. It saves critical data from all your PDFsand signatories so that you will always have access to a backup of your important documents. 

Can’t Sign A Secured PDF? Here’s Why 

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Are you frustrated because you can’t sign a secured PDF document? It may be because you don’t have permission to access the file. The PDF may be configured with read-only access, or you do not have the right password. 

If your Adobe Reader document grants you authorized access and you cannot sign a secured PDF, you may need to ask the sender to modify its permission settings. After updating the document, you can download the file again and see if the problem has been fixed.

Common Questions About Signing Secured PDFs 

Many have posted questions about secured PDFs. Here, we gathered some of the most common questions:

How Do I Unlock a Secured Adobe PDF?

Acrobat, Adobe Reader DC, and Adobe Acrobat Reader DC all have to unlock buttons for unlocking documents. The lock icon is located in the upper left corner. Click on this unlock button to undo a file’s security settings.

  1. Click open to access your PDF documents in Acrobat.
  2. From the Menu, select “Tools” > “Protect” > “Encrypt “> “Remove Security.”
  3. The options that will appear after “Remove Security” will depend on the security settings of the file. If it has “Document Open Password” enabled, click OK to remove the password. 

Can You Save a Secured PDF File as Unsecured?

You can unsecure a secured PDF and save it as unsecured. There are two paths you can use. For Adobe Acrobat Pro, you need to know the password for unsecuring the file. We recommend using Adobe Acrobat Pro since it is the only version that allows you to do the following steps:

  1. Open your file with Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Go to “File” and click “Properties”.
  3. Look for the Security tab and select “No Security” in the “Security Field” drop-down menu. If it has a “Permissions” password, you will need it to change the settings and unsecure the file.
  4. You can now save files with the new settings.

You can also use Google Chrome to convert a secured PDF document into an unsecured one. Chrome has a built-in PDF reader, which allows you to sign documents using the fill sign tools, but this reader requires you to have authority to access the file and printing it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Right-click on the icon of the password protected files and choose “Google Chrome” from the “Open with” menu.
  2. Use the “Document Open” password to access the file and open it.
  3. Click the “Print” icon.
  4. Choose PDF under the “Save As” menu.
  5. Select the location where you want to store your PDF document. 

Once saved, a duplicate file will be created without the same restrictions. 

How Do You Remove Signatures From PDFs?

You can remove a signature by opening the file in Adobe Acrobat. Right-click on the signature you want to eliminate. Then, click on “Clear Signature.” If you need to remove someone else’s signature, you’ll have to ask the signatory to do so using the above process.

What You Need To Remember About Signing Secured PDFs 

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With e-signature tools like Signaturely, having secure and e-signed documents need not be complicated. Easy access to software, online services, and tools has made it possible to save, edit, print, and create secure digital files from alterations and forgery. 

All you need to do is pick a tool that works for you and your team. As you can see, anyone with online access can now use e-signature tools easily and quickly.

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