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Can you trust your PDF editor to redact confidential documents?

Redact PDF

On the surface, redacting a document to remove sensitive information may appear like a simple task. Isn't it just a matter of drawing a black box over the confidential text? Not quite. There's a lot more to think about in order to avoid accidentally releasing material that was meant to be redacted. In this article, we’ll talk about why using common pdf editors for redaction could leave your sensitive information vulnerable and what to look for in a pdf redaction tool.

Why PDF editors fall short when redacting sensitive data

When it comes to documents containing sensitive information that will be shared with third parties, institutions must ensure that documents are properly redacted. In fact, redacting sensitive data is often a legal requirement. High-profile redaction mishaps make headlines all the time -  and it’s never pretty - but that situation can be avoided by taking steps to ensure that documents are redacted the right way.

Here are some of the most common redacting mistakes that result in the disclosure of sensitive information when using a pdf editor for redaction:

  • Using graphic markup tools to draw a black box over the sensitive text that other users can easily uncover.
  • Changing the font color to make text unreadable, which any PDF user can easily undo.
  • Forgotten metadata — in some cases you may edit the text in a document, but the document's metadata still exposes confidential information.

The right way to redact a PDF

PDFs are one of the most common file types that need to be redacted, so if you find yourself in the common scenario of needing a pdf redaction tool, look for these must-have features. Your pdf redaction tool should...

#1: Delete sensitive data, not mask it.

Any redaction tool must delete the text from inside the PDF to ensure it is completely removed from the document.

#2: Handle all PDF types.

Your PDF redaction tool must be equipped to handle all PDF types. When you examine a PDF file, there is no conclusive way to know which PDF format you’re viewing (Text-PDF, Image-PDF, Image-OCR PDF). It is vital that you use an application with tools specifically designed for redaction.

#3: Redact text, graphics, and images.

Redaction software should be able to permanently remove text, graphics, and images from the PDF document. If someone were to copy the content from the pdf and paste it into another application, the redacted content will not display.

#4: Search and redact the PDF.

This feature works much like the find and replace function in Word. Type in a word or string of words to locate them in the document. Then you can apply redaction to one or all of them.

#5: Pattern search and redact.

This enables you to quickly find and redact information from patterns that are typically tied to sensitive information types, such as credit card numbers, dates, email addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers.

#6: Exemption codes to explain redaction.

When you redact a word, image, or area of a document, the reader will want to know why this information is blacked out. Some standard exemption codes are required by certain courts and other regulatory authorities; however, your software should allow you to write on the redacted area explaining the redaction. 

#7: Redaction review.

It is not unusual for redaction to be a collaborative process. For example, a document might be marked up by a paralegal or legal assistant, then sent to a lawyer for final approval. In this case, the lawyer can then apply the redactions as needed or required. 

#8: Full-page and multi-page redaction.

Your redaction solution should provide you with the ability to redact a full page as well as a range of pages.

#9: Protect the original document.

When the redaction is applied or burned into the PDF document, it should not overwrite the original.

#10: OCR workflow for paper documents.

Your PDF application should provide OCR workflows for capturing paper documents copied or scanned and converting them to text-searchable PDFs as part of an automated process.

Redaction tools are essential for redacting a PDF

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that simply covering sensitive data with a black box is not enough. To permanently remove text from a PDF, you have to use a redaction tool. This is especially true if you frequently have to file documents electronically, or work in a field where you routinely handle confidential information. It's a good idea to use professional redaction software. By doing so, you will save yourself a lot of time and stress in manual efforts that fail to adequately protect your information.

Redactable is an easy to use platform that quickly and permanently removes confidential data from documents, so you can be confident knowing that your documents are truly protected. Try it free here. 

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