What Is the Difference Between Password Protection and Password Encryption?

We often talk about how to protect user's email, social media accounts, and so on, but what about text documents and other files we might store on our devices? If you have ever asked yourself what is the best way to keep a PDF or any other file secret you might have come across two phrases: password protection and password encryption. Password protection and encryption are two different methods, even though they may sound alike. In this blog post, we will explain what the difference between these two methods is and how to make sure your data gets protected against people you are hiding it from while ensuring you will not lose access to it yourself.

What is password protection?

Password protection is like locking something in a safe-deposit. It means no one can get to the locked content without knowing the right combination. This method is used on separate documents, folders, and other data the computer's user may want to protect from other people who might have access to the device. The problem is, if someone interested in such content obtains the password or finds a way to open it without it, the content might be revealed despite the owner's efforts to keep it hidden. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways hackers could obtain the password or hack in without it. For example, it could be obtained with the help of malware, or it might be guessed if the user chooses a weak password. Not to mention, when it comes to PDF documents, the passwords placed on them can be removed using the CMD window or specific password recovery tools.

What is password encryption?

Password encryption is a step up from password protection. The term can be a tad confusing because, in fact, you cannot encrypt the password itself. Instead, by setting up "password encryption" you are creating a password AND encrypting the contents of the file. In our example (see instructions below), the contents of the user's PDF document are not only password protected, but also encrypted. It is a process during which the content one wishes to keep secret is altered to make it unrecognizable. For example, if it is a text document, letters of each word might be shuffled with additional characters so the words would no longer make any sense. The reverse process is only available if the person who wants to decrypt this data can provide a specific decryption key or a password. In other words, even if the password is removed no one could read the hidden content as it still would need to be decrypted. Of course, it is important to realize you might be unable to retrieve it too if you lose the decryption key, aka, the password.

How to password protect a PDF file?

  1. Open your chosen PDF file.
  2. Go to Tools and select Protect.
  3. Then pick Encrypt and choose Encrypt with Password.
  4. After selecting Require A Password To Open The Document insert your password.
  5. Pick an Acrobat version next to Compatibility (select the same version as the recipient has or lower).
  6. Choose from encryption options:
    • Encrypt All Document Contents
    • Encrypt All Document Contents Except Metadata
  7. Press OK.
  8. Confirm and retype the password when asked (make sure you remember it).
  9. Select OK to finish.

Which method is more secure?

No doubt it is safer to use password encryption since it provides two security layers and password protection has only one. Nevertheless, it usually depends on the data one wishes to protect and the people he wants to keep it away from. For instance, if you want your kids to be unable to open less important documents or other information, you could password protect it with a secure password made up from random characters; something they could never guess. On the other hand, if we are talking about sensitive data the loss of which could do damage to your virtual security, we would recommend picking password encryption instead.

As explained earlier, the main risk with password protection is that hackers interested in your data might find ways to access it without the password or find other ways to break in. However, even though one of the methods is considered to be safer than the other one, they both have one flaw, which is the user could forget the password. In such case, the files might be lost even if the user locked them away to protect them. Meaning if you are planning on password protecting or password encrypting your files it would be a good idea to think of a way to save the generated passwords somewhere safe in case there is a need to look them up.

How to store passwords with Cyclonis Password Manager?

Even though the password manager's main feature allows automatic login on accounts and sites you can access via your browser; it does not mean you cannot save passwords for various applications or in this case password protected files. Cyclonis has a feature called Private Notes. It allows one to create notes secured with password protection and encryption. The software’s team recommend using it not only when creating secret notes for oneself, but also to store various passwords.

All notes are held in the user's private vault just the same as passwords saved for web pages and online accounts, so if you worry about the information's safety, you should rest assured the application will keep it encrypted and secured. All you have to do is pick a secure master password and memorize it so you could access created Private Notes. As you see, if you forget it even the software creators will be unable to access your vault and retrieve data guarded in it. To learn how to create Private Notes, you should continue reading here.

July 25, 2018

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