Do you ever need to share sensitive computer documents with others? If so, please resist the temptation to send them in the clear via e-mail. Instead, you should take a few simple steps to secure your information.
At the very least you should encrypt your files before sending them — simply password protecting them is not enough. While there are a number of utilities for doing this (e.g., TrueCrypt) perhaps the easiest way is to simply create an encrypted .zip archive.
If you use Windows, you can use a utility like 7-Zip to do this. On a Mac, the simplest (and free-est) way is to issue the following terminal command.
zip -ejr [name] [path to file/folder]
To do this:
- Launch Terminal.app (it’s in your applications folder).
- Type the command as written, replacing [name] with the desired archive name (leave off .zip — this will be added automatically).
- Don’t type anything for [path to file/folder] — instead, simply drag-and-drop the file/folder you wish to archive into the terminal window.
- You will be prompted for an encryption password. Enter it (twice).
That’s it. If you’re a Dropbox user, you can do yourself one better by right-clicking on the resulting .zip archive and selecting “Get link” from the “Dropbox” submenu. You can then send a link instead of the file itself.
The advantage to sharing a link is that you can remove the file after its been downloaded and you don’t have to worry that it will be left hanging around in someone’s inbox (and thus on a mail server somewhere) waiting for a hacker to strike.
As I understand it, the .zip encryption protocol isn’t particularly strong, and there are some known vulnerabilities, but this approach should be good enough for sharing files in a pinch while retaining a reasonable amount of data security.