If you've ever had to email anyone a bunch of files, you’ve most likely zipped your files. Zipping compresses your files, but did you know you can also lock them so they stay secure from prying eyes? Here’s how to encrypt and password-protect your files before sending them to anyone.
Even though Windows allows you to compress your files without any extra software, it doesn't provide encryption and password protection. There are many trusted third-party tools you can choose from, such as WinZip, WinRAR, and 7-Zip. For this tutorial, we’ve chosen 7-Zip as it’s free and offers AES-256 encryption standard (the same that NordVPN uses to protect your traffic from snoopers).
If your folder contains multiple large files, it may take a few moments for it to compress and encrypt. Congrats! You now have a password-protected compressed folder.
The receiver can only access your files and folders if they have 7-Zip or a similar compression tool. If you are worried that the recipient won’t be able to open the file, you could choose ZipCrypto encryption instead of AES-256. Then the recipient can easily open it using File Explorer or Windows Explorer. However, we do not recommend this as it’s not as secure as AES-256.
To decrypt and access your files:
7-Zip uses strong encryption so it would be difficult to access your folders unless someone gets your password. Make sure you choose a strong password that includes capital letters, digits, and random characters. (You can use the NordPass random password generator for this.) Also, never send your password together with the encrypted files as this defeats the purpose of encryption. It’s better to send it via an encrypted messaging platform or an encrypted email.
However, don’t forget – no matter the encryption, anyone with access to the compressed folder will be able to see your file names, which can hint at the contents. Consider changing your file names so they wouldn’t include any sensitive and personally identifiable information. The recipient also needs a password, and if you can't communicate it securely, your files will still be vulnerable.
NordVPN will soon be launching a new encryption tool called NordLocker. It will help you securely transfer your files via any platform (cloud, email, USBs and other means). With NordLocker you won't need to compress your files or protect them with a password. No one will be able to read or open your documents except the intended recipient. How does this work?
Your files are encrypted using asymmetric key cryptography, meaning that you and the recipient will generate private and public keys when you download the NordLocker app. The app will then use your recipient’s public key to encrypt your files. Now the only way to decrypt this file is with the combination of your recipient’s public and private key. That means you won't have to worry about sharing your passwords. NordLocker's encryption and its zero-knowledge policy will ensure ultimate security for your data. You can sign up for early access here.
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