AutoCAD files contains sensitive information that should be locked to some recipients or protected from editing. Often, companies need to share some CAD drawings with a team of professionals who work collaboratively to improve the designs, framework, or content. But while this is done, it’s important to protect these files and ensure that the ideas aren’t stolen or used without proper permission. In the following article you will find out the best 3 ways to lock CAD designs.


According to the U.S Department of Commerce, intellectual property theft is estimated at more than $250 billion and 750,000 jobs annually. The International Chamber of Commerce estimates the global fiscal loss is more than $600 billion per year.

Manufacturing companies across all sectors have a blueprint of operation that includes some of their most hidden secrets and system designs, representing the backbone of the company. To keep operations running smoothly and efficiently, these secrets must be protected from unauthorized hands and prying eyes.

What are CAD files, and how do they work?

Computer-aided design (CAD) files are typically used to create models, technical drawings, blueprints, or architecture plans via CAD software, and they may contain both 2D or 3D designs. Another term used to refer to the same thing is CADD (for Computer-Aided Design and Drafting).

The CAD files are an extremely valuable piece with extensive industrial applications, including sectors such as Civil Engineering, Architecture, Automotive, Shipbuilding, Aerospace, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Forensics, Prosthesis, etc.

In these industries, the CAD file helps companies safely store designs of their current technological tools and prototypes of new or future designs. When companies do their designing and prototyping, there’s a need to share the CAD files with various key persons in the operation channel for evaluation and possible improvements.

During file sharing, companies sometimes experience a breach in security, causing their drawings (designs or prototypes) to fall into the wrong hands. As a result, invaluable, revolutionary ideas may get stolen, causing unimaginable lo. Or operations ideas may leak into the hands of competitors and put the business at tremendous risk. Hence, the need to secure CAD files to protect companies’ intellectual property.

Theft Challenges Associated with the use of CAD files

A company’s intellectual property is one of the most sensitive business components. Every business’s uniqueness that makes it triumph over competitors is often buried digitally as intellectual property. Proper protection of the files carrying the intellectual property is essential to reduce business risks and avoid unbearable losses significantly.

Unfortunately, businesses are not always able to keep their files and intellectual property safe, especially in companies where there’s little awareness about the damages of a breach in cyber security.

According to research, the core intellectual property theft challenge companies experience with CAD files occurs via email attachments or web transfers. Other less prevalent sources of intellectual property theft include stolen USB devices and laptops.

While the sources mentioned above may be seen as external challenges, companies also face internal challenges stemming from their greatest assets – employees. Employees of a company may intentionally steal some sensitive intellectual property for personal reasons, putting the company at great financial risks.

In a survey of 400 business professionals conducted by “Ibas” regarding employees’ perceptions of intellectual property theft, the following was discovered:

  • 69.6% of business employees admitted to having stolen some form of corporate intellectual property from their employer when leaving a job.
  • 30.4% have taken information such as contact information, customer databases and so on.
  • 58.7% believe that taking intellectual property is acceptable.
  • only 28.2% think that stealing intellectual property is completely unacceptable.
  • The most common technique to steal intellectual property is to transfer electronic copies of files and documents to a personal email account.

These statistics and other similar ones reveal the importance of having effective cyber protection for CAD files against internal and external theft to ensure designs are only in the right hands.

3 Techniques for securing and Lock CAD files

When it comes to securing CAD drawings internally or via third parties, there are a number of options available, including password protection, using DXF format or exporting to PDF, and using Information Rights Management solutions.

1. Password Protection

As the name implies, this involves adding passwords to your CAD files so that only the intended recipient will have access to the file.

If there’s a security breach as cybercriminals are able to get hold of the file, they are still posed with the challenge of finding the right password to open the file.

Passwords are virtually the easiest and most fundamental approach toward drawings protection regardless of the file format or software used in creating the CAD files.

Some CAD tools has the option of protect or lock a DWG file through a password, but not all of them. Beginning with AutoCAD 2016-based products, the ability to add passwords to drawing files was removed. Instead, Autodesk recommends that you purchase an encryption product. Anyway, you can use a .zip/.rar tool to compress a DWG file with a password.

While passwords are effective for protecting your files from unauthorized access, they do not offer any protection once the file is opened. The recipient has total control over the file and can choose to use the drawings or designs without permission. In fact, they may simply modify the design by adding some elements of uniqueness and then publish it under their name. Thus, the concept of theft isn’t entirely eliminated by relying on passwords, particularly since statistics show that employees often steal intellectual property.

2. Using other Formats

A second way to protect and lock from editing CAD files is to convert them to DXF, DWF or DWFx formats. These are much better formats that allow the recipient to access the content of the file via a password but don’t give them the ability to edit or modify the content.

Thus, when it’s required to share files with collaborators and work collectively with a team of professionals, using any of these formats is far safer for a company than merely passwording the CAD files.

When team members or employees need to review, redline, or markup, the design, they can easily use a free software called Design Review. The Design Review software is only required when extra action needs to be taken. But to merely view the content, an internet explorer would suffice.

Furthermore, PDF is another format you can convert a CAD file to for extra protection and lock it against unauthorized access. PDF gives you more flexibility while allowing you to password and protect your designs.

3. Using Information Rights Management solutions

Another highly effective option for securing your CAD files is using third-party software security solutions such as Information Rights Management (IRM) or Enterprise Digital Rights Management (E-DRM). It’s important to use a reliable and efficient security software that guarantees peace of mind and optimal protection. Hence, the introduction of SealPath.

Introducing SealPath CAD Drawings Protection

SealPath is a cybersecurity company that provides cutting-edge solutions to data privacy and security challenges faced by businesses. The SealPath technology gives you absolute control over sensitive documents and files and lets you monitor what happens to your property, even after sharing them with a third party.

SealPath offers protection that accompanies your document both on your network and the recipients’ networks, whether in the cloud (e.g. Box, SharePoint, etc.) or on a mobile device. You can control who accesses the data, when and the extent of influence they can have on the file. With SealPath, sensitive documents are protected (encrypted with digital rights management) at rest, in transit and in use.

For instance, do you want the holder of your file to be able to read only without having the ability to edit, copy, or even print your work? Or do you want them to have the document without being able to open it until a specific date, even when they have the password? SealPath can help you achieve all these effortlessly.

SealPath brings an entirely new meaning to data privacy and security, allowing the original owners of the files to enjoy total control regardless of how they share them (email, cloud, etc.).

Additionally, SealPath enables you to revoke access to the files remotely and even delete them from the recipients’ database in case you no longer collaborate with the holder or don’t want the work to be in their possession. And, if any unauthorized entity is attempting to gain access to your file, you can see their details in real-time.

Undoubtedly, SealPath is the safest way to protect and lock CAD drawings from being leaked or accessed, and it offers tons of outstanding features, including:

  • Permission control: control the actions your customers or employees can take with only a few clicks.
  • Work with your Usual Tools: SealPath integrates seamlessly with your original applications, so your collaborators don’t require any special software to view the document.
  • Extremely simple sharing: sharing encrypted files has never been more effortless. You do not need to register your recipient to share files with them and control their usage.
  • Exhaustive access control: you can see if other users have opened the document, if the protection has been tampered with, or if anyone is attempting to open the protected documentation unauthorized.
  • Automation of the protection: once you move or copy files to a specific folder, the protection is automatically initiated. Users who extract files from the protected folders can be monitored according to their usage.
  • Dynamic Watermarks: if someone attempts to take a screenshot, your document travels with the email address of the individual who opened it, their IP address and date/time.
  • Integration with corporate systems: you can log in to SealPath with your domain credentials even if your LDAP is different from Microsoft Active Directory.
  • Formats and platforms: The protection applies to a wide range of file formats, including Office files, PDFs, and CAD files.


How SealPath protects and lock your CAD files

When it comes to CAD, SealPath offers optimal protection by ensuring the original owner maintains absolute control. Here’s how it works:

Firstly, SealPath prevents unauthorized access to your CAD drawing, thereby keeping your files secure. Your CAD files are secured with passwords that prevent unintended persons from accessing the content of your document. Thus, even if cybercriminals are able to steal your CAD files, they can’t access what’s inside.

Secondly, SealPath helps you restrict the actions your intended recipient can take. This is important because you may want a partner or customer to only view the details of your work without copying, printing, or manipulating the data.

SealPath Security Sandbox helps you achieve this by controlling the actions that the receiver can take on any file you send, which includes technical documentation, CAD designs, quality guides, R&D information and all of your intellectual property.

Thirdly, you get more control over your files with options such as:

  • Expiration dates– where you can set expiry dates for the files. Users will no longer have access to the files once they expire, even if they still have the password.
  • Access control by IP– you can determine the IP address that opens your CAD files; thus you are restricting others from accessing your files
  • Opening permissions in offline or online mode– you may choose to allow your CAD files to open online-only or both online and offline.


SealPath also offers plugins to protect and lock CAD drawings with Microsoft Information Protection. You can see a demo video here.

Compatibility with different formats and applications

SealPath can secure CAD files for the following applications and formats:

 CAD designs in .DWG, .DWF, DWS, .DWF, or .DWT format, managed in AutoDesk AutoCAD (Electrical, Map 3D, Mechanical, Civil, LT, etc.) or in applications such as TrueView.
 AutoDesk Inventor 3D designs in .IPT, .IAM, .IDW, or .DWG, or format so you can limit permissions on content (i.e. view and modify but not extract data).
 AutoDesk Vault product data management (PDM) software integrates with Autodesk design tools and other CAD systems to keep everyone working from a central source of organized data. SealPath integrates with Vault for protected and locked CAD files.
 Intellectual property contained in Siemens Solid Edge in .ASM, .DFT, .PAR, .PSM or .PWD formats. Check if someone can print it, export it, modify it and audit all accesses.
 Dassault Systèmes CATIA drawings in .CATPart, .CATDrawing or .CATProduct formats. Share them securely with third parties.
 Confidential 3D designs in Dassault Systèmes Solidworks in .slddrw, .sldprt, .sldasm or .sldxml formats. Collaborate with no risk of leakage.
 Dassault Systèmes Draftsight drawings in .dwg, .dws, .dwt or .dxf formats. Revoke access to the files even after they were shared.
 Graebert ARES Commander drawings in .dwg, .dws, .dwt or .dxf formats. Integration with ARES Kudo, web/cloud base CAD also supported.


Final Thoughts

SealPath enables you to protect and lock sensitive documents and files by encrypting them and setting certain restrictions on them. You may limit the users who can access the files, their actions, and even monitor where they send the files to. When the files are shared on other devices, you can monitor what the users do with them regardless of the locations and devices involved. And lastly, if you want to revoke or delete your documents despite having shared them with other users, it takes only a few clicks to do that.