PDFs are the most common way of formatting your data. Companies and organizations have started using a PDF file as their primary form of documentation. Instructions, setup guides and even images can be shared by converting them to a PDF format. With its expanding usage in various fields, the question that comes up is how can you protect a PDF online?

If your PDF is meant only to be read or viewed by a certain person or team, you need to implement protection protocols to safeguard it from unauthorized access.

In this blog you will learn how to prevent your PDF files from downloading online from an unauthorized user. This also works for files of all other extensions like .doc, .docx, .html, .htm, .odt, .xls, .xlsx, .ods, .ppt, .pptx, .txt, etc.


What is a reverse proxy?

A reverse proxy server sits between your website’s origin server and the clients trying to access it. It protects the identity of the origin server by directing traffic from users towards itself, before sending it to the origin server of your website. You can learn more about it from this link.

A reverse proxy server can be customized to a great extent to set access control to your media. You can set user roles and actions, restrict IP addresses, set location and time-based access controls, and many more.

So using a reverse proxy you can restrict access to and prevent downloading any PDF file from a user who has unauthorized access for it.


Working of a reverse proxy to protect PDF files from downloading.

With the help of a reverse proxy, any unauthorized user will not even be able to read the contents of your PDF. Here’s how a reverse proxy works in protecting your PDF file contents: –

  1. User visits the site via the reverse proxy,
  2. User clicks on a PDF file to either download or view the content,
  3. User will be redirected to a Login page where they’ll be prompted to enter their credentials,
  4. These credentials will be sent back to the reverse proxy and then the website will display one of the 3 outcomes: –
    1. A custom error message set by the admin on a new page.
    2. An error 403 “Forbidden Page” will be displayed.
    3. If the user is authorized, PDF can be read and/or downloaded.

Based on user roles, role based access control (or rbac) can be set on the files, so that the user can just read the PDF or download it as well.



With a reverse proxy, we have solved the problem and can now prevent PDF files from being downloaded online from unauthorized users. We can even set custom role-based access control (or rbac) on our files with the help of a reverse proxy so that we can allow select users to download the files and prevent data leaks.


Other Reverse Proxy solutions by miniOrange.

  1. Bot traffic mitigation.
  2. Load balancing.
  3. IP restriction.
  4. Content caching.

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