Clients often ask “how do I securely send this document?” we provide an answer on how to password protect a file.
If you work for an organisation that blocks Email when you are sending content that can be seen as containing sensitive data such as bank details or personal data. Or even if you are just worried about the wrong person getting access to the data then a password can be an essential step to securing your data.
Native VS Third-Party
One question we are often asked is should be we use the built-in password functionality in applications such as Word and Excel. I do use the functionality myself for just protecting documents on network drives from colleagues or when storing data on backups only accessible by the company.
If the goal is to send this to a customer or a supplier then I always recommend using a tool such as 7-Zip as this supports encryption and complex passwords.
Microsoft Office password protection does not have a high level of encryption and unfortunately, there are a lot of tools online that aid the cracking of these passwords. We at CHTSI are unable to recommend the passwords due to this.
Are There Other Reasons To Password Protect Your Documents?
In the modern world, we are encouraged to back up our data, there are different types of backing up such as total drive backing up (via an image) and there are manual ways to backup documents by using services such as Google Drive and OneDrive by Microsoft.
If your password protects your documents then you can actually add a layer of encryption to your storage. Consider OneDrive they use 256-bit AES encryption but if for some reason your password was breached a hacker would still have access to your data.
Adding a password to a Zip file would make retrieving your data useless to a hacker if you used a secure password.
Email Is Not Secure
Okay, there are secure Email services. Generally speaking, Email is not considered a secure option but unfortunately, it is often used to communicate very sensitive personal and financial data.
Would you like your financial Payroll data to be leaked or your HR data to be shared across the world and used by unscrupulous individuals? I know I wouldn’t so be adding a password is vital.
Convinced, Ready For A Password What now?
The number one thing to remember now you have decided to add a password is to MAKE IT UNIQUE.
I apologise for saying it that way but the number of times people add simple passwords often leaves me speechless.
One of the most popular passwords is Password12345 I can understand why choosing a simple password can be helpful but we live in a world where personal data needs to be secured, it is not just your data at risk.
Another common approach is changing the last digit(s) on the end of a password, unfortunately, if you thought of doing that then so did a hacker.
How Do I Password Protect A File?
In this demonstration, we are going to use an excellent FREE tool called 7-zip. I use this not only due to the encryption available but also compression ability as you can take a large file and compress it (larger the file the longer it takes) to store or send.
First, we need to install the application, if you haven’t clicked on a link so far in this article please navigate to https://www.7-zip.org you will be presented with the download options:
I recommend if you have a 64-bit processor then choose the X64 version and select Download.
If you use a Mac we recommend https://www.keka.io/en/ which is a great alternative and offers the same functionality.
Once you have downloaded 7-zip now double click the install file and either choose a new location to install or accept the defaults:
Once installed use File Explorer to navigate to the file you wish to Password Protect and then right-click navigate to 7-Zip and select Add to Archive
The next steps are to choose the archive options, I recommend changing the Archive format to Zip as if you leave it as 7z then only people with 7-zip installed can open the archive.
As above choose the Archive format and then under encryption set your password. Our recommendation would be to use a secure complex password and something completely unique that you don’t use anywhere else.
Once you have chosen the Password select OK and this will create a new document in the same path with your password of choice:
If you decide to Email the document to someone then please select the zipped document and provide them to password an alternative way, we do not recommend Emailing the password.
Password protecting documents is one aspect but you can also add other layers of security such as Encrypted Email or VPN Services and with the advancement of SmartPhone technology we now have End-To-End encryption apps of which even the Government are having difficulties with.
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