Do you feel unsure if a confidential document you sent or you want to send from your mac could be accessed by unhautorized people?. Don’t worry, you are in the right article if you want to know how to protect PDF, Word, Excel, ZIP, Folders… from unauthorized access, we will explain all the methods, steps, advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Table of contents:

 

1. What are the main data security risks for businesses using Mac devices?

Securing business data on Mac devices is essential yet challenging. Macs, while robust, face several data security risks. These include malware targeting unprotected systems, phishing attempts to snag sensitive information, loss or theft leading to data breaches, and internal threats stemming from unauthorized access. Ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of enterprise documents on macOS requires a vigilant, multi-layered approach to safeguard from these prevalent risks.

Mac devices, widely regarded for their robust security features, are not impervious to risks. In 2023, a significant finding highlighted the vulnerability of Mac devices: 11% of all malware detections by Malwarebytes targeted different variants specifically engineered for Mac computers. This was noted in the 2024 ThreatDown State of Malware report. This underscores a common misconception: while the majority of cyber-attacks are directed towards Windows systems, Macs are not immune. Notably, in September 2023, Malwarebytes identified a cybercriminal campaign that deceived Mac users into downloading malware capable of extracting sensitive information such as passwords, browser data, files, and cryptocurrency details.

2. How do I protect and encrypt enterprise documents on macOS?

Encryption is vital for safeguarding sensitive information, ensuring that data remains secure and accessible only to authorized users. To protect and encrypt enterprise documents on macOS there are 3 methods:

Full Disk Encryption: This feature offers comprehensive encryption for all data on the disk, making it unreadable to unauthorized persons unless they have your password. You have the option to utilize FileVault, the most commonly used Full Disk Encryption (FDE) feature in macOS (it´s free, built-in), or another tool from specialized vendors.

Password Protection of Documents: Individual documents can be encrypted with a password, providing an additional layer of security. This method is beneficial for documents shared across different platforms. This can be done with PDFs or images through the Preview App, in the Print Dialog for PDFs, and password protection (Pages, Numbers, Keynotes, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Documents) or choosing a vendor specialized in password encryption.

Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) Tool: EDRM secures sensitive information by controlling access and usage rights, offering a robust way to protect and manage enterprise documents across all devices regardless of the file’s location. Identity and access management + encryption + permissions management + Monitoring of accesses.

Each method provides a strategic approach to data protection, but we want to explain how they work as well as the best and worst of each one so that you are clear about which one to choose.

3. Steps to Full Disk Encryption of a Mac with FileVault

As FileVault comes integrated into the Mac and is the most used disk encryption, we will focus only on it. Enabling FileVault adds an extra layer of security, requiring a login password to access your data. It is important to note that you must be an administrator to configure FileVault. When you power it on, all data on your drive is encrypted; as you work, write, and edit new files, they are encrypted in real time.

To enable FileVault, follow these steps:

  1. On the Mac, select Apple menu > System Preferences.
  2. Click on “Security & Privacy” in the sidebar.
  3. Scroll down to the FileVault section on the right.
  4. Click Turn On.
  5. A window will appear to select how to unlock the disk and reset the login password in case you forget it:
    • iCloud account: Click “Allow unlock my drive from my iCloud account” if you already use iCloud. Click “Set up my iCloud account to reset my password” if you do not use iCloud yet.
    • Recovery key: Click “Create a recovery key and do not use my iCloud account”. Write down your recovery key and keep it in a safe place. If you lose your key all the data on your disk will be lost.
    • Click on Continue and the system will start encrypting the disk. A bar will be shown with the remaining time. *Your Mac must be connected to power for the encryption process to proceed. Encryption only takes place when the Mac is awake.

*Warnings to be taken into account:

  • If the Mac has multiple users, their information is also encrypted, and they unlock the encrypted disk with their login password.
  • Enabling FileVault also activates additional security features to ensure the protection of your Mac. For instance, when FileVault is enabled, you will be required to enter a password to log in if the Mac is in sleep mode or when exiting the screen saver.
  • To log in to a Mac with an account that does not have FileVault enabled, if another user with an account that has FileVault enabled has started the Mac, logged in, and then logged out, the user with the non-FileVault enabled account can then log in.

3.1 Benefits of full-disk encryption

  • Automated Encryption Process: Once the initial access is granted by users, encryption and decryption occur automatically during data write and read operations, requiring no further user intervention.
  • Adds a Security Measure: Data extraction is inhibited without the proper device password and corresponding encryption key, ensuring a high level of security.
  • Data Protection at rest: Safeguards data at rest by mitigating risks from potential cyber-attacks and securing data in cases of device loss or theft.
  • Efficiency: Outpaces manual and traditional encryption approaches in speed, fostering a more efficient workflow with minimal risk of human error.

3.2 Drawbacks of full-disk encryption

  • Performance Consideration: The process of encryption and decryption may impact data access speeds, especially during extensive virtual memory usage. For each data access, the authentication key is necessary to enable decryption.
  • Password Management: Users must remember their password and keep their recovery key safe. Without these, access to the device and data recovery becomes highly challenging, sometimes impossible.
  • In-transit Data Risks: The protection provided does not extend to data shared between devices or sent via email. Such data remains susceptible to unauthorized access, so an additional security solution is required.
  • All your information depends on one password: In case your password is weak, and therefore hacked, or even obtained by any spy method, all your information is revealed forever.

4. How to Password-protect business documents using a Mac?

Encrypting enterprise documents on a Mac ensures valuable business information remains secure when at rest, but when it comes to the need to share documents such as PDFs, or Office files by email with other colleagues or external parties you can password-protect the documents and send them as you usually do. We are going to mention 5 ways to do it with functions that are already integrated into macOS or that most of us already have tools.

  1. Preview App: Easily apply a password to PDFs directly within the Preview app to prevent unauthorized viewing.
  2. Print Dialog: Use the Print dialog for existing PDFs to add password protection without additional software.
  3. iWork Suite: Secure documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote with built-in password features.
  4. Microsoft Office: Implement password protection on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to safeguard sensitive data.
  5. Other specialized Tools:  You can find searching in Google numerous tools that specialize in traditional document encryption, although each has its own peculiarities, interface, and additional settings, they are all based on password protection.

4.1 Steps to Password Protection Images and PDFs through the Preview App

You can protect PDFs or images using the Preview App by setting a password for opening the file. You can also set a password to control access to features such as printing, copying text, and adding annotations.

To do it, follow these steps:

  1. In the app Preview, open the PDF file or image.
  2. Choose File > then click on Export…
  3. Change the format to PDF if it´s not by default.
  4. Click on the Permissions button located at the bottom and perform any of the following operations:- Set a password to open the file: Select “Require a password to open document”. Enter a password, then retype it to verify it.- Set permissions: You can allow some changes to be made without entering the owner password by clicking on the box near each permission, such as to be printed, its content copied, and more…
  5. End the process by clicking on the “Apply” button and then click on Save.

4.2 Steps to Password Protection Pages, Numbers, and Keynote Docs

Sometimes you want to share a document as editable to work with other colleagues or business partners, this can be done with password protection with your Pages, Numbers, or Keynote documents. You can assign a password so that only those who know the password can open the document.

To do it, follow these steps:

  1. Open the document and choose “File” at the top of the screen > Set Password.
  2. Please enter a password, enter it a second time in the Verify field, then click Set Password.

*Warning: There is no way to recover a password if you forget it. Be sure to choose a password that you will not forget or write it down in a safe place.

4.3 Steps to Password Protection Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Documents

We know that Office apps are the most used, especially at the enterprise level, so it is important to know how to password-protect Word, excel, and PowerPoint. As mentioned above, this method allows you to keep the document editable for future modifications.

To do it in Word, follow these steps:

  1. click the Review tab.
  2. then click Protect in the ribbon and choose Protect Document.
  3. A dialog displays giving you options to password-protect a document for opening and modifying the document, as well as other permissions.

To do it in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. choosing File > Passwords.
  2. then A small dialog displays, where you can set a password to open the document and modify it.

To do it in PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  1. Choose File > Passwords.
  2. Then A small dialog displays, where you can set a password to open the document, and another to modify it.

*Warning: There is no way to recover a password if you forget it. Be sure to choose a password that you will not forget or write it down in a safe place.

4.4 Benefits of Password Protection of Files

  • Simple and easy for anyone: Most of the ways we have viewed here are simple to follow. You don´t need complex steps or software, anyone can do it with basic knowledge using a computer.
  • Cost-free or cheap: You can protect documents without having to buy any software with the mentioned methods. Even if you want to use premium solutions they are usually accessible with a low budget.
  • Compatibility: Files are widely used and supported by most operating systems and applications, making it easy to share files with others regardless of the platform they are using.

4.5 Drawbacks when protecting files with a password

  • Offers Partial Security: You have to share the password with your recipient, this sometimes is made by email, online message, or even written on a note. This means that if someone has gained access to the recipient’s email account, device, online message platform, or note, he can view all the information contained in the password-protected documents. In some cases, if he steals the files, he can do whatever he wants with them, meaning that he can cause damages.
  • Password Strength: The security is also dependent on the robustness of the password itself. If it´s used a weak password like 123456789 or the date of birth, it can be easily cracked with some malicious tools.
  • No Authentication: The recipient can send the password and the files to whoever he wants secretly. You can´t limit who can view the shared files, anyone with the password can access them.
  • Not efficient: Anytime you want to share protected documents, you have to set a new password to keep your data safe and reduce the risks. You also need to send the password to recipients in a secure way. This process usually takes time and can lead to avoiding using it cause of commodity.
  • Risk of Loss: You have to remember all your passwords or have them well saved on a password manager, an additional step. If you forget it, you lose access to files forever. There is no way to regain access.

5. Protecting Files with Enterprise Digital Rights Management in Mac

In simple terms, DRM is a combination of identity and access management and encryption but with traceability. It offers Advanced and Robust protection that travels with the files wherever they go. The technology acts as if your files always had a transparent shielded box and only lets access to the people you decide. It’s used and known for its granular permissions, blocking unauthorized users or actions. It controls who accesses the data, when, and with what permission (read-only, edit, print, copy and paste, etc.).

For businesses, this technology is named E-DRM, and it offers features specifically designed for the enterprise. SealPath is one of the leaders in the market in this field and stands out for its usability and simplicity of use. As you may have seen, there are not many alternatives when you need advanced features or high security for macOS, and this is where SealPath plays an important role in protecting corporate data with robustness. Let’s see how is the process of data protection with our own tool so you can see its power at a glance.

5.1 Steps to EDRM protection of documents with SealPath

With SealPath Information Protector for Mac, you can protect any file using its agent in a few clicks. You can also set who can access the file, when, and with what permissions: View, edit, copy and paste, print. To protect files follow these steps:

  1. Open the SealPath Information Protector for Mac.
  2. Select a protection policy or create a new one. The protection policies are displayed as cards on the agent.
    a) Creating a new protection policy: Click on the blue button on the top right “+ New protection”.
    b) Editing an existent protection: Go to your desired protection policy and click over the pencil icon.
  3. Introduce the recipient’s email and its permissions. Save the protection.
  4. Select the files you want to protect and Drag and drop them into the protection policy. You can also click over a protection policy (on the cards) and use Finder to select your files. With either of these methods, the protection will be immediately applied.
  5. Share the files by any means: Email, Instant Messaging, etc.

To better understand how this technology works on a technical level: when a user requests to view content, the EDRM client checks the user’s permissions on the server for that particular file. If the user has the necessary permissions, they receive an End User License (EUL). This EUL defines the assigned permissions, and SealPath decrypts the content and applies it accordingly.

5.2 Benefits of EDRM Protection

  • Easy to use and Convenient: Protecting documents is so easy, that you only have to drag and drop or select the files on a folder picker. in less than a minute your file is protected without complex steps. Anyone can do it, even users with basic informatics knowledge.
  • Advanced and Granular controls: You can restrict specific actions, have more control over the documents, and adapt the protection for each use case. The security it offers is higher and therefore minimizes the probability of suffering a data breach or exfiltration.
  • Prevents Unauthorized Use of Content: You can see who is accessing your files and when. It allows you to detect suspicious actions.
  • Permanent Protection: Recipients can work with your files while the protection is active, even if they are on their PCs. They have to authenticate to access the files, so only those users you have specified can access them.
  • High Security: You can set expiration dates, watermarks, restrict by IP, and many other features that keep your files protected against any risk situation, so you keep control of your information with you at all times.
  • Native access in Office files: Almost all companies work with office files, and in this case, if they have been protected, access is agentless, natively. There is no need to install anything.

5.3 Drawbacks of an EDRM

  • Budget Allocation: It requires a budget and a willingness to invest in this type of security, although they are not expensive compared to other cybersecurity solutions. But for cases in which we have no resources to invest, it is a measure to be discarded.
  • Registration process for externals: When working with third parties, they must register in the system to be able to access the documents. Sometimes, external partners or collaborators are reluctant to take this extra step.
  • Use of agents to access non-Windows office files: In file formats such as PDFs or images that have been protected, it is necessary to install an agent to view the protected content.

6. Summary

Maintaining robust protection over business data should be a top concern. Mac devices are also being targeted by cyber threats, it is clear that relying solely on their built-in defenses is insufficient. Organizations must adopt higher security measures if they don´t want to suffer serious harm such as financial losses, reputation damage, or legal issues. Data leaks or fines for non-compliance with measures are constantly in the news.

While encrypting your entire disk with FileVault encrypts all data and renders it inaccessible to unauthorized users, it does not protect data during transit. Password protection for individual documents is a straightforward and accessible option but carries the risk of password sharing and potential losses if a password is forgotten.

However, the most robust and complete protection regardless of the location of the file is the EDRM. Solutions like SealPath offer granular controls, vastly reducing the exposure to unauthorized access and data breaches. Remember, the longevity, resilience, and success of your business may well depend on the security measures you put in place today.

Do not hesitate to contact our team here if you want further support addressing these data security measures.