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Sharing documents securely

Published onJan 31, 2020
Sharing documents securely

Sending important documents to someone? You may not be aware that email is really not a safe way to do so. Many of us share critical information like our Social Security numbers or other IDs, titles and deeds, or financial and medical records, using email or text messages. This leaves those critically important documents in places where you have no control over them: on the recipient’s device, and on servers (other computers) in between.

We all need to find safer ways to share these files—and that goes for the offices that ask us to share files insecurely, as well as for us as individuals. (I’m giving a particularly stern look to schools, real estate companies, and legal firms here—you’re often the worst offenders when it comes to asking people to share documents in a way that sends private information all over the place. You might take some tips from the medical industry, which has had better standards for data security for years.)

Fear not: help is at hand. Here are some services that can help you send files securely without putting them through email.

If you’ve only got a couple of files to send, quickly

and they don’t need to stay online for long, Firefox Send offers a nice simple solution. They encrypt files up to 1 GB (2.5 GB if you log in to your Firefox account) and give you a link to pass on to the person you want to send them to. The link expires automatically, so you don’t need to worry about them lingering online.

If you’re already using a password manager and need to share files with your office or family

LastPass and 1Password offer options for secure file sharing.

If you want to share a folder for a longer time

SpiderOak One Backup offers secure file sharing and backup service for a low monthly fee.

If you’re looking for an encrypted file-sharing solution for your office

Take a look at Spider Oak One Backup as well as ShareFile and Symantec’s encrypted file sharing solution. The Freedom of the Press Foundation also offers this detailed guide to setting up encrypted file sharing using VeraCrypt.

If you’re extra paranoid or really need your files to never be on someone else’s servers

Try OnionShare. The person you’re sending files to will need to use the Tor Browser to access the files, which may pose additional technical difficulties.

As I always say, no security tool is a magical invisibility cloak. Once these files are on the device of the person you’re sending them to, they’re only as secure as that person’s device and accounts, so you may want to say “hey, once you’re done with this please delete the file and empty your trash, ok?” But these solutions offer a way to protect your files when they’re on servers between you and the recipient.

Was this helpful? Check out the rest of the Keep Calm and Log On website, and pick up a copy of the book for more tips on protecting your digital security.

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