How to Secure Sensitive Documents in SharePoint

There will always be instances when many users have more access privileges or permissions than they require in environments like SharePoint. It is quite difficult dealing with such situations because the more access privileges you give than are necessary, the more you create a problem with regard to the security of the documents present in the document management systems, such as SharePoint.

Document Permission & Access Privileges

Some of the documents present in SharePoint would be highly confidential for your business; while others may be less confidential or are not confidential at all. Clearly, you need to assign different access permissions to the different users for the various types of documents in SharePoint. You may even have to change the access privileges during the lifecycle of a document based on the users accessing the same.

Thus, the planning and allotment of permissions is a complex task for the SharePoint document management system, especially when there are numerous documents in the system. Add to that the fact that the documents are moved in and out of SharePoint repeatedly. This increases the likelihood of your administrators losing track of the permissions.

Just imagine the problems that may arise if a highly confidential and secure document leaves the SharePoint system. In such scenarios, how can you make sure that all the access controls stay intact for those particular documents? All such events could lead to compromises in the documents’ security.


Recommended reading: The 5 Biggest Hacks of 2016 (Including Yahoo, LinkedIn, iPhone & Tumblr).

Folder Level & Document Level Permissions

SharePoint does allow you to assign permissions to secure your organization’s documents at the folder level or document level. However, with folder level permissions, your documents only remain safe while they are uploaded to the right folder that is guarded by the right set of permissions. If someone moves the files from a secure folder to another folder which is not protected by similar permissions, then your files will no longer be as safe as they were earlier.

While this risk is mitigated when you assign permissions at the document level to ensure they are protected by the access privileges; even when they have moved around, it still requires administrators to define security policies against particular meta data; even though SharePoint comes with limited metadata functionality. And, there is a great possibility that certain users will be able to manipulate and remove the security easily by modifying the document metadata (either purposely or unintentionally).

Using a DRM Security Software

We have talked with Mr. Steve Mathews, the DRM Consultant for Locklizard and according to him,

“It thus becomes apparent that you should use DRM security software to deal with the security issues plaguing SharePoint documents. With such a security tool, your administrators will be relieved from the tension of assigning access privileges in the SharePoint system.”

A DRM solution will also ensure the security of your documents only by storing them in SharePoint and preventing any misuse by not allowing any unauthorized use of the documents, regardless of whether or not they are in the system. When users log in to their SharePoint account, they will be able to view the documents available to them. But it will be subjected to the rules imposed by the DRM functionality in terms of use, duration of use, watermarking (to avoid copying), and so on.


The biggest advantage of such DRM security software is that SharePoint users cannot edit the DRM controls prevalent for the secure documents. In simple terms, these controls remain with the documents wherever they go, or with whomsoever they are being shared. So, the DRM functionality implemented over the secure PDF documents. This ensures that unauthorized users will not be able to view such documents; even if an authorized user shares the files with them.

You may also like: Tips for Business Leaders to Bear the Brunt of the Most Critical Cyber Crimes in 2017.

Final Words

How to Secure Sensitive Documents in SharePoint - Final WordsWith total control over how and where your documents are accessed and regularly updated data about the relevant access and usage details, a PDF DRM security solution will help you protect your company’s intellectual property and ensure compliance with several regulations (if applicable).

We hope that the above-discussed method to secure sensitive documents in SharePoint proves beneficial to you. Feel free to share your thoughts, inputs, and queries in the following comments section.

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Published By: Souvik Banerjee

Souvik BanerjeeWeb Developer & SEO Specialist with 15+ years of experience in Open Source Web Development specialized in Joomla & WordPress development. He is also the moderator of this blog "RS Web Solutions".