You might not think much about the emails you send daily, but they play a crucial role in your professional and personal lives.
Various institutions contact their clients via email. Take a look at your inbox—you’ll see messages from card-issuing banks, financial institutions, lenders, merchants, and even government agencies.
Although emails are convenient, you might doubt their security. With cyberattacks occurring every 39 seconds, you can’t dismiss the possibility of crooks intercepting your emails.
Don’t worry—you don’t have to stop sending emails altogether.
Like you, we also send and receive dozens of emails regularly. So we asked our team to scour the net for reliable cybersecurity resources and gather their best email safety tips.
By the end of this piece, you’ll know several ways to send documents privately.
Please read without skipping. We’ll share a crucial yet overlooked fact about the security of sending confidential files via email. Who knows? You might have been sending emails incorrectly all these years.
Let’s explore how to send secure documents via email!
Ways to email documents securely
Emails are convenient. Statistics show that the average working adult sends 40 emails and receives 121 a day.
You can send files, documents, videos, and images in real-time to anyone from anywhere globally.
However, mindlessly using it compromises your privacy. You might not know this yet, but third parties like website admins and internet service providers can access your traffic.
Unfortunately, skilled cybercriminals can also intercept emails. Considering many of your messages’ sensitive information, you’d do well to observe cybersecurity practices.
Some email safety techniques you can follow ASAP include:
1. Locking attachments with a password
If you go through your emails, you’ll notice that file attachments contain the most crucial information.
Take your credit statements as an example. They carry banking information that identity thieves can abuse to perform fraudulent activities like issuing fake checks and making unauthorized online payments.
Ideally, strive to set passwords for all your files. Always opt for password protection, whether you’re just sending a follow-up email for work or submitting tax filing requirements online.
Password protection features vary from file to file. However, to give you an idea of how to lock attachments, we made a brief explainer on some commonly used file types.
Windows PDF documents
- Open your PDF file using Adobe Acrobat Reader (free).
- Select the File tab in the navigation bar and scroll down to Protect Using Password option.
- Input your desired password.
MS Office files
- Open your file attachment in its respective MS Office application.
- Select the File tab in the navigation bar and hit the Save As button.
- Choose your preferred file type, then hover over the More Options option.
- Hit the Encrypt the Document with a Password tab.
- Input your password and save.
- Use the built-in Preview app to open your document.
- Select the File button and select Export.
- Input your file name, hit Encrypt, then set your preferred password.
2. Utilizing end-to-end email encryption technologies
If you don’t think your email provider offers enough security, look into third-party email encryption solutions.
But be careful. Although dozens of apps feature end-to-end email encryption, choosing the wrong programs will only put you at further risk.
Feel free to explore your options. We suggest starting your research with widely trusted and reputable programs like:
Trustifi Email Encryption Software stands as one of the most widely trusted email encryption solutions among enterprises. You can seamlessly incorporate it into your company’s MS Office 365 plan.
The system uses AES-256-bit encryption to scramble messages and ensure that third parties can’t extract data. Even if they intercept work emails, they’ll only see useless ciphertext.
We can’t recommend Trustifi for individual users. However, if you want to sign up your company for a plan, you can request a sample quote.
Symantec Gateway Email Encryption suits individual users. It provides a simple, convenient way to encrypt and password-protect your file attachments.
Sure, you can just opt for standard encryption. However, Symantec uses AES-128-bit and AES-256-bit keys, which offer a more sophisticated level of encryption.
Note that Broadcom acquired Symantec in 2019. So if you want to sign up for Symantec Gateway Email Encryption, you’ll have to request a quote from its partner distributors.
Based on the reviews we read, many SMEs use the Micro Focus Voltage SecureMail to protect the client's Personal Identifiable Information (PII) they receive from emails. The system covers everything from names to SSNs.
Micro Focus offers several cybersecurity products. When requesting sample quotes, we suggest combining them with your Voltage SecureMail plan to get the most value for your money.
3. Running e-signature software programs
Verifying confidential documents sent online is challenging. Unless you truly know the person on the other end of the screen, you can’t wholly guarantee the authenticity of their messages.
Sadly, this uncertainty makes online contracts insecure. Many older adults nowadays still prefer signing documents and agreements in person, especially if they have little experience with technology.
With that said, we can’t deny the convenience of sending contracts online. Sending and receiving documents via email saves time, money, and effort since you can review them virtually anywhere.
You shouldn’t drop online contracts altogether. Instead, look into e-signature software programs that will help you and the parties you transact with regularly create authentic, verified documents.
You can check out options like Signaturely, DocuSign, and HelloSign. You can use them to remember multiple signatures, plus they seamlessly integrate with MS Office and Google Workspace programs.
4. Turning on Gmail confidential mode
Although there are several email providers on the market, Gmail currently stands as the most popular option worldwide. Recent reports show that it has more than 1.5 billion active users.
Considering Gmail’s popularity, there’s a good chance that you also use it to send and receive the majority of your messages. You likely use it for various personal and work reasons.
One of the reasons people trust Gmail is it has a sophisticated cybersecurity system. It uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt in-transit messages.
However, you can further improve your data privacy if you turn on Gmail’s Confidential mode. Just go to User Settings and hit the Enable Confidential Mode button.
It minimizes the risk of recipients accidentally leaking your files by enabling you to:
- Revoke file access at any time
- Set verification codes and passwords
- Create email expiration dates
Remember: you can’t guarantee how your email recipient will protect your data. So you’d do well to place certain security measures.
5. Setting expiration dates for accessing files
Even if you set rigid cybersecurity measures, your files will still be at risk unless your recipients protect them. Unfortunately, third parties rarely go above and beyond to lock their inboxes.
Instead of relying on your email recipients, take matters into your own hands and limit file accessibility. Set expiration dates for your emails.
After the limit passes, no one—not even your designated recipient—can open your message anymore.
Most email providers have customizable delivery options. For instance, you can set expiration dates on Gmail once you turn on confidential mode, which we already explained above.
On Outlook, double-click the email you wish to lock, go to File, hit the Properties section, then set the expiration date under Delivery Options.
6. Choosing secure online cloud storage systems
If you regularly send and receive several files via email, we suggest storing them on cloud systems instead of your hardware device. That way, you won’t have to worry about hackers breaking past your device’s firewall.
Your email provider likely has an in-platform cloud storage system already. Look into it before exploring third-party options because it might give you better pricing.
For instance, Gmail has Gdrive. You get 15 GB of storage for free just by signing up for a Gmail account, and you can upgrade for just $3 to $10 a month.
The importance of securing your email
You might feel like some of the methods we mentioned are excessive. After all, you’ve been sending emails for years now—why should you suddenly care about email safety?
Email fraud always seems unlikely until it happens to you. Again, hackers attack every minute, so you can’t neglect the risks of sending sensitive yet unencrypted and unprotected information online.
If you still need more convincing, here are some of the top reasons why you should take extra steps to secure your emails:
- Skilled crooks can decrypt emails: Email providers only encrypt in-transit messages, so skilled cybercriminals can still intercept emails. You need to encrypt all your files and messages manually.
- Third parties view your traffic: Whether you know it or not, third pastries like government agencies, website admins, and internet service providers have access to your data. Unfortunately, crooks can use the same technologies for cyberattacks.
- You are your weakest security link: Social engineering tactics trick victims into divulging personal information by manipulating their emotions. You might encounter emails with fake threats, made-up rewards, or impersonation attempts.
- Email servers can get hacked: Note that even email servers from the largest tech companies can get hacked. Don’t solely rely on their cybersecurity systems.
Even if you follow all the tips mentioned in this article, you still can’t wholly stop hackers from intercepting your emails. Cybercriminals continuously develop new hacking techniques.
But don’t get us wrong—we don’t want you to stop using email services altogether. On the contrary, we want you to understand the truth so that you’ll go above and beyond to secure the confidential files you send online.
Ignorance only gives you a false sense of security. You can continue sending confidential files via email, but ensure you adopt preventive measures that minimize your susceptibility to cyberattacks.
Otherwise, crooks will extract your data. Trust us—they can do massive damage with details like your name, SSN, banking information, and employment details.
Securing your work and personal emails
Which of the methods listed above should you apply? The answer: everything.
Again, hackers continuously develop advanced techniques to bypass most cybersecurity systems. Standard data privacy techniques won’t suffice.
You’d do well to password-protect your files, encrypt your messages, and invest in secure antivirus software programs. Combining these technologies will minimize hacking risks significantly.
Of course, do your due diligence before sending confidential files and information online. Human errors negate security protocols.
As a general rule, don’t hit the send button if you have doubts about the person on the other end of the screen.