Tech Tips: Password protect PDF files & finding a lost iPhone
May 27, 2018
I find that I need to send financial PDF files via email, and I'm worried about who can view these files. Is there some way to password protect a PDF file before I email it? I could send the recipient the password separately, if necessary. I'd prefer to do all this for free, if possible. Can you help?
This need may be new to you, but the need to password protect PDF files is as old as, well, PDF files. Because the PDF file format is generally read only, and because just about every human with a computer can load and display a PDF file, it's really the perfect means of transmitting information that can't be edited.
Transmitting PDF files via email has almost (but not quite) superseded the ancient ritual of faxing documents; the main difference is that faxing is generally considered more secure because it's a point-to-point protocol, and never uses the internet. The only security flaw with a fax is that you don't know who will see the printed page on the receiving side. With a PDF file, it's all too easy to print, forward, or otherwise share confidential information.
To avoid security issues with PDF files, then, you can apply a password to the document so it can't be viewed without knowledge of the corresponding password. You can set one or more passwords for viewing, extracting pages, and printing the document (among other activities).
Most people that password protect PDF files do it using the Adobe Acrobat application, but this application is far from free. If you own Adobe Acrobat (which is different from the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which doesn't support applying document passwords without paying for the feature), you can use that tool to add password protection.
On the other hand, if you want a free solution, check out the website PDFProtect.net. This site is free, although it will constantly barrage you with reminders that you should give them money for their services. You can use the service for free but be warned that you'll feel guilty about it.
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Also note that there are size and daily use limitations to their free services, but for one-off protection of a normal-sized PDF file, you should be fine.
The site is relatively self-explanatory; follow its directions to upload a file and password protect it. You can upload a file from your computer or use a file you have stored in Google Drive or DropBox. This process can be as simple as selecting a file, selecting a password, and then downloading the password-protected file.
You can also examine the advanced options to add extra features, such as requiring a separate password for printing or extracting pages from the document. Once you're done, you'll need to supply the password to anyone who needs to read the document.
Our suggestion: Send the password in a separate email. Don't send it in the same email to which you've attached the PDF file. That would generally spoil the point of the password protection, right?
Find a lost iPhone
When my iPhone fell into the cushions of my sofa, I spent hours trying to find it. I tried calling it, but the ringer was off (of course). That didn't help. Is there some mechanism for locating the phone even if the ringer is off?
We guess this happens more often than anyone could imagine, given the number of times we've been asked this question.
Before we describe the very simple solution, let's start with one requirement: You need to know your Apple ID and its password. Without fail. If you have and use Apple devices, this is one set of credentials you really need to know.
If you don't know, specifically, what your Apple ID and password credentials are, stop now and make a note to work this out. Sooner or later, you'll need this information: If you need to download an app from the App Store, change settings, or use iCloud.com (as you will for this question), you need this information.
Don't wait until you're in the middle of some emergency; work it out now! With your Apple ID and its corresponding password in hand, you can set things up so it's easy to locate your phone.
On the phone, go to the Settings app, and in the iCloud settings, find the option to enable the Find My iPhone setting. With this feature enabled, you can locate your phone if you lose it. (Ken once left his phone on an airplane, and amazingly, was able to use this feature to locate it and retrieve it from the airline.)
The Find My iPhone options in the Settings app include a second option: Send Last Location. If you enable this feature (and you probably should), your phone sends its location as it shuts down to your iCloud account. With this feature enabled, even if your phone is off, you can log into your iCloud account, or use the Find My iPhone app on another iOS device, to see where the phone was when it was turned off or ran out of battery power.
If you have another iOS device, it would probably be helpful to download the Find My iPhone app on each device. With this app running, you can find any of your iOS devices.
The app displays a map with the location of the device highlighted. If you need to locate your phone without having another iOS device available, you can log into your Apple account (using your Apple ID and password, which you know, right?) at http://www.iCloud.com, and use the Find iPhone option to locate your phone. Note that this feature works with any device logged into your iCloud account, including phones, tablets, laptops, and watches.
Of course, you asked how to locate your phone with its ringer turned off — in your case, if the ringer was on, you could have simply dialed its number. With the ringer turned off, that's a little trickier. But again, Find My iPhone comes to the rescue.
Whether you run the app from your computer (at iCloud.com) or using the Find My iPhone app on another iOS device, you have the option to play a sound on the "lost" device. Even if the ringer is off, Find My iPhone will play a loud sound on the phone, making it easier to locate.
Note that Find My iPhone not only locates and plays a sound on the device, but it can erase the device remotely, and can set it to Lost Mode. Lost Mode locks the device, displays a custom message, and turns on tracking so you can find it, even if location services had been turned off.
If you own one or more iOS devices, you'll find it useful to download the Find My iPhone app, and to enable the Find My iPhone settings so you can locate the device if/when you lose it.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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