How To Send Documents Securely via Email

Alexis Basilla

Whenever you need to send a document securely via email, you can do a few things to ensure the process goes smoothly. You can safeguard your information and confirm it arrives at its destination intact by taking a few simple steps.

The safest way to send documents securely is to hand them to the recipient personally. However, this isn’t always an option and is rarely convenient. To help you overcome the risk of having your files intercepted by hackers, we’ve collected some of our favorite methods and tips on how to send documents securely via email.


Table of Contents

What Is Encryption?

Before we dive into sending documents securely, you must understand Encryption, as it’s the foundation for digital security. If you already understand Encryption, feel free to skip to the next section.

Encryption is a method for protecting information by turning it into a code. Only the intended recipient of the message can unlock its contents. It is also used to secure stored data against unauthorized access, ensuring that stored files cannot be retrieved without proper decryption keys.

It converts documents and other files before sending them from an authorized user to another computer system or device. They remain encrypted until they are unlocked at their destination.

In short, encryption scrambles received messages into illegible code, making them incomprehensible if intercepted by criminals, hackers, spies, etc. To read the message, one must access the required decrypting key, which only senders and recipients have. So essentially, encryption ensures that it is safe to transmit information across a public network such as the internet.

There are several methods of encryption, including symmetric key encryption (or secret-key cryptography), where the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt a message.

The second one is public-key encryption, where two different keys are used – one each for encryption and decryption. And lastly, hash functions allow you to input the same data repeatedly without creating multiple copies of your message, even though an attacker might intercept it many times during transmission.

How To Send Documents Securely via Email

Encryption With Base64 Method

Base 64 encryption translates binary data into a character set that can be easily transferred over media designed to deal with textual data. The Base64 encoding scheme is defined in RFC 2045 – MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) and IETF RFC 4648 – The Base16, Base32, and Base64 Data Encodings.

Encryption is a way of scrambling content (“Hi there!” = “SGkgdGhlcmUh”) that seems random but has logic behind it. That little “Hi there!” example is using Base64 Encryption. That means you can copy the scrambled version, paste it into Google, and decode it with a Base64 decoder.

That’s because encryption works on a lock and key basis. In that example, Base64 is the key being used. Most encryptions use a password as a key, which allows anyone with the password to view the decrypted file. For anyone without a password, they’ll only see a random string of letters and numbers.

The most secure type of encryption is end-to-end encryption, which is only possible when you have complete control over the delivery channel – but more on that later.

How To Send Documents Securely via Email

Now that you have a basic understanding of encryption, it’s time to dive into a secure way to send documents online. As mentioned above, you can use a standard encryption method like Base64 to secure your documents. But since these methods are used so often, they’re easy to crack. Below are three options that are a little more secure.

1. The iFax App

How To Send Documents Securely via Email

The iFax app is an application that makes sending documents securely a breeze. It uses 256-bit SSL encryption and is fully-HIPPA compliant, making it a reliable and safe option. Best of all, it’s end-to-end encrypted.

There’s that word again: end-to-end encryption. But what is it?

When you (Point A) send a document to someone (Point B) over the internet, it has to go on a brief journey through servers and routers. That journey is the most vulnerable part of your document’s life, where it’s at risk of being intercepted and exploited.

End-to-end encryption protects your document from the moment you send it until it arrives in your recipient’s inbox. It’s the best way to protect your files and one of the many things that make iFax an excellent option for sending documents over the internet.

Hat tip: iFax supports an email to fax feature that lets you fax documents using your Gmail or email client of your choice. This is possible if you have an active subscription to the Professional plan.

2. Password Protect Your Files

A second method that’s slightly less secure (but still better than nothing) is password protecting your files. This is possible on most computers and major word processors.

To protect a document with a password in Microsoft Word, open the file. Then, in the top-left corner, click “File,” then “Info,” “Protect Document,” and “Encrypt with Password.” You can then choose a password to protect your document; the only people who will be able to view the contents of that file will be people with the password, so make sure you remember it!

In Apple Pages, click “File” and “Set Password” to achieve the same thing. You may notice that copying and pasting the password into an encrypted document doesn’t work; that’s because Pages requires you to type it in by hand. Make sure your recipient is aware of this.

Hat tip: You can send documents securely using your email with password-protected files because the recipient must have a password to open the file.

3. Firefox Send

Firefox has built a reputation for being a privacy champion, and Firefox Send is no exception. It’s a free online service that you can use without the Firefox browser or a Firefox account, making it a flexible solution.

FF Send allows you to upload files from your computer and share them with others via a private link. Now, if you post this link to social media, anyone can technically download your file, so it’s only as confidential as you make it.

That said, you have a lot of control over the privacy of the content you share with Firefox Send. After you upload a file, you can decide how many times it can be downloaded before it expires, how many days before it expires, and you can even encrypt it with a password. All in all, FF Send is a valuable tool for situations where you need to securely share a document but don’t have the software to do so.

Hat tip: You can send documents securely via email using this method without paying for the software.

How To Send Documents Securely via Email

The Don’ts Of Sending Files Securely

Don’t Send Sensitive Documents Over Email

Email is one of the most popular ways to share files with coworkers, friends, and family, and for a good reason. It’s ubiquitous, flexible, accessible, and fast. However, the one thing email isn’t is secure.

That’s because email almost solely relies on your network for security. If your network isn’t secure, there’s nothing stopping someone from intercepting the document while it’s being sent to your recipient. And even if your network is safe, but your recipient’s network isn’t, then the document is still vulnerable. If security is a concern, avoid email.

Don’t Skip Encryption

Something you don’t want to avoid is encryption. You may have noticed that every method we mentioned for sending a document securely uses some form of encryption. That’s because encryption is one of the strongest forms of digital security, for now anyway.

There are many ways to send documents back and forth, whether through apps, messengers, wireless networks, or even the humble flash drive. No matter which method you choose, make sure some encryption is involved.

Don’t Send Encryption Keys With The Document

Last but not least, don’t send the encryption key or password through the same channel that you send the document. That’s like handing a crook the key to your door before giving the key to your partner.

Instead, send them separately over two different mediums. If you’re sending a password-protected document through the iFax app, send the password to your recipient in a text message. This way, someone would have access to your recipient’s iFax account and their text messages to read the doc, which adds an extra layer of security.

How To Send Documents Securely via Email

Keep Your Data Secure In 2022

Email encryption comes in many forms, and PGP and S/MIME are two of the most popular email encryption protocols. Some email providers use built-in client authentication and identity verification to ensure that emails sent between users come from who they claim to be – rather than an impostor account.

Remember to add encryption to your documents when sending them via email and notify the recipient about the password or a key that he needs to use to open the files.

If that’s not enough, it’s best to use the email to fax feature of iFax to ensure that the transmission is highly encrypted away from snooping hackers and cyber attacks.

There may be more risks to your digital security than ever before, but there are just as many solutions that you can use to your advantage. Apps like iFax will provide you with the protection you need to keep your data and send documents securely.

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