Can You Encrypt Your Documents Before Sending Them in Email? Yes!

So – you have a Word, Excel, or PDF document that you want to send via email, but it is sensitive in nature. Now you are wondering if there is a simple way to encrypt that document so that no one can open it, unless they have the password. The answer is YES, and you don’t have to buy an expensive program to accomplish this.

This article will describe how to encrypt your documents using either the 2011 or 2016/2019/Office 365 versions of Word and Excel, and also how to use Apple’s included Preview program to encrypt your PDFs.

Important note!: You should use some other form of technology to communicate the password to your receiver(s), such as a text message, a phone call, or snail-mail. Using email to communicate the password defeats the whole purpose!

Encrypting PDFs

Apple’s Preview app can encrypt any PDF file in preparation for emailing or any other file-transfer method.

  • Open your PDF in Preview and go to the File menu
  • Hold down the Option key and choose the “Save As…” option.
  • In the dialog window that opens, you’ll see a checkbox titled, “Encrypt”. Select that and also give your document a slightly different name.
  • After checking that box, you’ll see a Password and Verify field. Enter your password into each of these and click the “Save” button.
  • Your newly encrypted PDF file’s desktop icon will now look like this:

What about PDFs within Windows?

Lifewire has a great article about encrypting PDF documents in Windows, using a free utility, PDFMate PDF Converter.

Encrypting Microsoft Word Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Word look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Word 2011

  • Open your .doc or .docx file in Word 2011.
  • Go to the menu File:Preferences and click on the Security icon.
  • You will be presented with a dialog box in which to enter your password. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Press the return key to accept your password, then enter it a second time.
  • Save your document.

Your new file’s desktop icon will look like this:

Word 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your document.
  • Click on the Review Tab
  • Click on the “Protect Document” icon
  • Enter your password in the “Password” field. I recommend NOT entering it into the “Set a password to modify this document” field.
  • Click the “OK” button and save your document.

Encrypting Microsoft Excel Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Excel look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Excel 2011

  • Open your .xls or .xlsx document in Excel 2011
  • Click on the Review tab
  • Click on the “Passwords” icon
  • Enter your password in the Password box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Enter your password in the “Reenter password to open” box.
  • Click on the “OK’ button and Save your document.

Excel 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your Excel document
  • Go to the menu File:Passwords…
  • Enter your password in the “Password to open” box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Click on “OK” and reenter your password in the “Reenter your password to edit” box and click OK and Save your document.

What about everything else?

The simplest way to encrypt other documents is to use an app that can password-protect your compressed .zip file (which the Mac does not do natively).

Keka is free from their website, or $2.99 from the App Store. It is simple and easy to use. Make sure to review their Help menu to get started.
WINZip is free for a limited time, and although its interface feels complicated and dated, it does work.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve gone through these procedures once or twice they will probably feel much easier for you. But if not, Contact Us, and we will be happy to walk you through all of it!

Why you should update your software now

You secure your valuables – your wallets, keys, and homes. You know that, if left unsecured, they can easily be a target for criminals. So it makes sense to think the same way about the information stored on all your electronic devices.

Computers, tablets, phones and other personal devices hold your emails and your financial and tax documents (with your Social Security numbers). Criminals who get access to this valuable information can commit identity theft, put harmful software on your devices, or both.

What’s one easy way to help protect all of this sensitive information? Update your software regularly, and as soon as possible when a newer version comes out. What’s an even easier way? Set the updates to happen automatically. Don’t ignore reminders to update. Criminals look to exploit vulnerabilities before the software companies can fix it. Delaying gives hackers time to access your information – even when a patch is out there to lock them out.

So what software should you be updating?

  1. Security software. Whether you use antivirus or firewall programs that were pre-installed on your device or that you bought on your own, make sure they’re up to date.
  2. Operating system software. Your operating system could be Windows, Apple OS, etc. If you’re not sure how to update your operating system, go to the website of your device manufacturer for help.
  3. Internet browsers and apps. Both are access points for criminals to enter your devices, so it’s important to keep them secure. 

For browsers, the Safari and Google Chrome browsers update themselves. For Firefox, go to the Firefox menu and choose “About Firefox” which will open a window and offer to download the latest update (if pending).

For iPhones and iPads, go to Settings:General:Software Update and turn on Automatic Updates.

For MacOS, we recommend going to System Preferences:Software Update and clicking on the Advanced… button (you will need to enter your Admin password) and setting your preferences this way, so that only the most major updates won’t be automatically applied for you:

Looking for more tips on how to stay safe online? Check out FTC.gov/OnGuardOnline.

It’s all too much!

What’s that you say? You’d rather just have a Macintosh consultant based in Denver just do it for you and be done with it? Absolutely! Contact us and we will get it done for you!

Want to remove your private info from the web?

Google your name – go ahead. Include some easily discoverable facts: the city where you live, the name of your employer, and maybe your middle name. 

If you’re like most people, the results page will be full of data brokers offering your address, your phone number, your email, the names of your relatives and their addresses, and so much more. In a world rife with random scams, this is a problem. 

Thankfully, there is something you can do about it. 

While removing all personally identifiable information from the internet is extremely difficult, there are a few simple steps you can take to snip the low-hanging fruit. If you’re simply worried about your privacy in general, then this act of privacy hygiene can go a long way. 

A good first stop is the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit “dedicated to reimagining privacy in a digital era.” The organization has an extremely detailed opt-out list for data brokers, with the respective links and steps needed to remove your info from the companies’ sites. More broadly, the WPF put together what it calls the top 10 opt-outs — a detailed step-by-step guide to pulling your information from the data brokers of the world. 

Want the schools you’ve attended to stop releasing your home address and phone number? Check the FERPA opt-out information. How about an easy and direct way to get on the National Do Not Call Registry? WPF has that, too. 

Ready for more? Stop Data Mining Me, a website that bills itself as the “Do Not Call” list for data brokers, has its own opt-out list. Consumer Reports also has a helpful list of its six recommended opt-outs

Importantly, the above is by no means an exhaustive list, and should not be considered that way. However, if you have a morning to spare and want to better protect your privacy, it’s a great place to start. 

So go ahead and get clicking. Your newfound privacy will thank you later. 

Want some help? Feel overwhelmed? You could use a good Macintosh consultant from Denver – We are here to help you. Contact us and we will get it done together!

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