We've all been there — sending a sensitive document via email and worrying about whether or not it will be intercepted. While there's no foolproof way to guarantee the security of your data, there are things you can do to make sure that your documents are as secure as possible when sent via email. So, if you’re interested in learning how to send documents securely via email, you’ve come to the right place. So, without further ado, let's get started!
The Top 3 Most Secure Ways to Send Documents via Email
Sending sensitive documents via email can be a risky business. In fact, statistics show that in 94% of the cases malware reaches targets via email. Luckily, there are three simple methods you can use to add an extra layer of security to your data:
- Password-protecting your documents
- Email encryption service
- Electronic signature software.
Let's take a closer look at each of these methods in turn.
Method 1: How to Send a Secure Document via Email Using Password Protection
One of the simplest ways to protect your data is to password-protect your documents before sending them via email. This way, even if your email is intercepted, the person who intercepts it will not be able to access your document without the password.
Typically the most common files sent (or received) are in Microsoft Word, so here is how to protect them:
- Open the file;
- Click on "File" in the drop-down menu, and then select "Info";
- Select the option "Protect Document" and then click "Encrypt with Password";
- Type a password in the box and click "OK";
- Re-enter the password to confirm it and click "OK" again;
- Save the file and send it.
With PDF files being the second most common type of file sent, here is how you can password-protect them:
- Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Reader;
- Click on "File" in the drop-down menu and select "Info";
- Go to the "Protect Document" tab and select "Encrypt with Password";
- Enter the password, re-enter it to confirm it, then click "OK."
*Note that in both cases, you must send the password to your recipient (preferably through another communication channel) so they can open the file.
Now that you know the basics of password-protecting a file, you know how to send documents securely over the internet and via email by simply attaching the file as normal.
Method 2: How to Send a Secure File via Email With Encryption Service
One of the most secure ways to send documents is to encrypt them. When you encrypt a file, it is converted into a code that can only be read by someone with the decryption key. This means that even if your email is intercepted, the person who intercepts it will not be able to read your document without the encryption key.
A number of encrypted email services available offer end-to-end, which means that your data is encrypted before it even leaves your device and can only be decrypted by the intended recipient. While these services are not free, they are fairly affordable and offer a high level of security for your data.
However, if you cannot afford such services, there is still a way to encrypt your data for free using 7-Zip. This is a free file compression and encryption program that can be downloaded from the internet. Once you have installed 7-Zip, simply follow these steps:
- Right-click on the file you wish to encrypt;
- Select "7-Zip" from the drop-down menu and then select "Add to archive";
- A new window will pop up — in the "Archive format" drop-down menu, select "zip";
- In the "Encryption method" drop-down menu, select "AES-256";
- Type in a password and then click "OK."
Your file is now encrypted, and you can send your documents securely. The recipient will need the password to open the encrypted file, so be sure to communicate this to them separately.
Method 3: How to Email Documents Securely With Electronic Signature Software
Another secure way to send documents via email is to sign them electronically using digital signature software. This type of application allows you to digitally sign, send, and receive all types of documents, including contracts. Not only does this make the document tamper-proof, but it also eliminates the need for paper documents altogether. Plus, it saves you lots of time and money because you won’t need to print, sign, and scan documents.
An electronic signature makes sending documents securely via email or any other channel, for that matter, a breeze. So how does it work? When you sign a document electronically, a unique digital signature is generated using a private key that is only known to the signer. This key is actually an algorithm that is used to encrypt the document. The signature is then appended to the document and can be verified using the signer’s public key. Note that once the signature is affixed, it cannot be detached without invalidating the document.
Here’s an example of how electronic signatures typically work:
John signs a contract to buy a car using his electronic signature software. The electronic signature which contains John's private key is then appended to the contract and sent to the seller. The seller receives it along with a copy of John's public key and uses it to verify the signature and confirm that the contract has not been tampered with. If the seller or anyone else tries to alter the contract in any way, the electronic signature will be invalidated, and it will be immediately obvious that the document has been tampered with.
Whether you're sending a contract, an invoice, or any other type of document in this day and age, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to ensure that it is sent (and received) securely. And while email is still the most widely used communication channel, it’s not the most secure one. Hopefully, the three methods of how to send documents securely via email discussed above will help you to keep your documents safe and secure. Just remember — each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to choose the right one for your needs.
What is the most secure way of sending documents?
Believe it or not, it's fax! Fax machines are less connected than email accounts. They're also extremely difficult to steal information from. This is because there are fewer methods of obtaining access to a fax link.
How do you send documents securely via email in Gmail?
If you're using Gmail, know that it has an inbuilt feature that allows you to encrypt emails. Here’s how it works:
- Sign in to the Google Admin console and go to Apps > Google Workspace> Gmail> User Settings and select the domain of your organization;
- Go to "S/MIME setting" and click on the box that says "Enable S/MIME encryption for sending and receiving emails";
- Proceed to compose your message as you normally would;
- Encrypt the message by clicking the lock icon located to the right of the recipient;
- To modify the S/MIME settings or encryption level, click “view details.”
Note that this type of encryption only works if both parties have the feature switched on.
How do you send documents securely via email in Outlook?
Luckily, newer versions of Outlook have a S/MIME encryption feature that makes it easy to encrypt your email. Here's how to send documents securely via email in Outlook:
- Start by composing a new email as normal.
- Click on the "File" tab and select "Options";
- Go to the "Trust Center" tab and select "Trust Center Settings";
- In the left pane, tick "Email Security" > "Encrypted Email" >"Settings";
- Go to "Certificates and Algorithms" > "Choose" > S/MIME certificate;
- Once you've finished composing your email, click "Send."
Before you begin, you must ensure your computer has a certificate added to the keychain. You'll need to set up and customize your signing certificate in Outlook.