In a world where we can share information in seconds with the tap of a phone screen, it’s easy to forget that it’s just as easy for that info to fall into the wrong hands.
Password hacks, data breaches, and identity theft are constantly in the news these days. This means a major dilemma for anyone who wants to send files securely: if we can’t keep even basic information safe, how can we expect to share sensitive data?
Fortunately, there are a few key tips to help you send information securely. Whether you’re sending tax documents or medical records, here are seven things to keep in mind.
1. Avoid Emailing Critical Files
Let’s begin with the most crucial takeaway of all: sending sensitive information over an email is a terrible idea.
We love email because it’s convenient, and because everyone else uses it—which makes it easy to send files to any user anywhere in the world. You’ve probably been asked to send everything from bank information to sensitive health info via email in the past.
However, it’s important to resist the urge to use this as a first choice. Most email providers don’t offer much by way of security (though there are some exceptions to this, which we discuss below).
In addition, secure file transfers are only as strong as the weakest link: the human recipient. It’s easy to forward an email or to respond poorly to phishing, leaving your private information vulnerable.
2. Go With Mail or In-Person Handoff
This isn’t an especially elegant solution in today’s digital world, but it’s always worth considering. We’ve trusted the postal service with our sensitive data for decades, and in many ways, it’s a more secure method of sending files securely.
If you’re wary of even the post office and you live close to your recipient, don’t forget that you always have the option of dropping files off in person. Unlike any other option on this list, an in-person handoff is the only way to know with certainty that your document is in the hands of the intended receiver, making it the best way to securely share a file.
3. Consider Services Like Online Fax
No, fax isn’t dead—and just like USPS mail, it’s a long-trusted method of sharing documents. Today, a huge volume of sensitive data is still sent by fax to ensure confidentiality. This, of course, only works if your recipient has access to a fax machine.
You’ll need to do a little sleuthing to find the virtual service that works best for your needs, but try this online fax for one that’s great for sending the most sensitive files.
4. Sign Up for a Secure Email Service
Yes, we said above that email isn’t the way to go—but that’s not always the case. Certain email services are entirely centered around providing top-notch security for both senders and recipients, and they’ve come a long way in recent years. Most services offer end-to-end encryption, password protection, open-source cryptography, and more.
One of the most popular options is ProtonMail, a service based in Switzerland. Mail is completely secure between users, but sending an email to a user of another service will require you to send a separate password to view the contents.
5. Cloud-Based Sharing Services
Most businesses and private users opt for cloud-based services for convenience: they’re easy to install and implement, and you can access them from anywhere.
However, these cloud-based systems can also be a great way to share documents and even share large files, depending on the provider. Keep in mind, of course, that some providers are more secure than others.
Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Carbonite all offer strong encryption, and they’re even HIPAA-compliant as a result.
6. Encrypt Your Files
If you’re not sharing files through an analog option, you should always pick a service that offers end-to-end encryption. This means that external hackers won’t be able to view your sensitive information, and it also means that the hosting or sharing service you’re using can’t view this data either.
However, you can also do an extra encryption of your own. Many free encryption programs allow you to encrypt files for your own purposes as well as for sharing. One useful option is AxCrypt, which integrates with windows and allows you to transfer files to a friend without making them install the software on their end.
7. Train Everyone Involved
We’ll say it once more: secure file transfers are only as strong as their weakest link, which is often the human recipient. As a result, it’s important to make sure everyone involved in file sharing and transfers knows the basics of data security.
If you’re considering how to securely send files for your workplace, you’ll want to make sure everyone on your staff knows the best practices for whatever tools you decide to use, including encryption, password protection, and who should have access. If you’re sending files for your own purposes, make sure your recipient has any associated encryption keys and knows not to share them.
Make Plans to Send Files Securely
If you know you’ll need to share sensitive data at some point in the future, start researching your options now.
With a range of opportunities for protecting your files through passwords, encryptions, and good old-fashioned common sense, you’ll have a much easier time of sharing data if you prepare in advance. Finding a reliable system that works for you can give you peace of mind as you send files securely online and offline.
Want more tips to help you make the most of the technology around you? Check out our other posts for more options!