Sending confidential information by email

Email is not a safe way of sending confidential information, in fact, some even say that you shouldn’t include anything in an email that you wouldn’t write on a un-enveloped postcard, however we often find ourselves needing to quickly send things, such as bank statements and accounts.

Although there are special email services that provide encrypted emails, it’s not something you can easily use with your existing email address, and most services require the person you are emailing to be on the same secure system, so our suggestion is you use a password protected ZIP folder which can only be opened using a password you provide by some other means.

To create a password protected ZIP folder we need to install some extra software, so go to and download the 7zip program. Once the installer file is downloaded, double click the file to start the installation process. You will need to restart your computer before you can start using it.

The information you wish to send by email must be stored in a folder on your computer. If it isn’t already, create a folder and place a copy of the files you wish to send into this folder. If you wish to send a message, type your message on a Word document and save it into this folder as well.

Now right click this folder and select the 7-Zip menu, and then the “Add to archive” option. A settings Window will open allowing you to change some settings, but the only one you need to set is the password and encryption method. Refer to the article on choosing secure passwords in our June 2014 newsletter.

The password is the weakest link in this chain. Unless you use a strong and secure password, your information could be hacked using readily available software. Once you have entered your password into the password box, make sure the “Archive Format” dropdown list near the top is set to “zip” and the “Encryption Type” dropdown list is set to “ZipCrypto”.

Click the OK button and a ZIP file will be created in the same location as your folder, without modifying or deleting the original folder. To ensure the file is now correctly protected, double click the ZIP file to open it. Open the folder inside the ZIP file and you should see your documents. Double click one of the files and it should ask you for your password.

To send these documents to your recipient, you can simply attach it to an email just as you would for any other file or image. If your file is too heavy to send by email, refer to the article in our September 2014 issue on sending large files. When the recipient receives the file, they will need to save it to their computer, then right click it and select “Extract All”.

Your recipient will need the password to access the files, and this must be communicated to them by some means, other than email. If you provide the password in the same email, anyone who intercepts your email will also have the password. Use the phone, mobile phone text message or give them the password face to face.

If you are sending information to your accountant and you expect them to send confidential information back to you, make sure you insist this same method is used by them as well, otherwise their emails could be intercepted and all your precautions wasted. Finally, email is still not the safest way to send confidential information, but this method will stop most snoopers in their tracks.