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File Encryption

There are many situations where UW Medicine workforce members need to be encrypting documents. Whether it is for attaching to an email, saving to an unencrypted USB or External Hard drive, or simply saving it to a location where others could access it.

File or Document encryption is a very important best practice that all workforce members at UW Medicine should know how to do.

What is file encryption?

File encryption is taking any single file (i.e. - Word doc, Excel xls, or a PDF) and using a built-in encryption option or encryption tool to encrypt the file. This is typically done simply by assigning a password to the file.

Why should I use file encryption?

Encryption makes files unreadable by anyone that does not have the password to open it. This helps to assure the confidentiality of the information that is in the file. When you are dealing with restricted or confidential information protecting the confidentiality of the information is a requirement of federal laws and regulations, as well as, UW and UW Medicine information security policies.

How do I encrypt files?

Below are instructions on how to use encryption in Microsoft Office products and how to use 7-Zip for compressing and encrypting files and folders.

Microsoft Office Files

Office 2007

Left click the Microsoft Office button in the top-left corner of any Office program. Then select "Prepare" from the drop-down menu that appears. Next you will select "Encrypt Document" from the menu that opens. See the image below for reference:

office

After selecting "Encrypt Document" you will be asked to create a password for the document. You need to follow the same strong password requirements outlined on the End User Guidance page.

This is an example of the window that will appear requesting a password for the document:

office

You will be given options to save the document in an older format. DO NOT save the document in an older version of Office. If you save the document in an older version of Office than the encryption strength will be lessened.

Now that a password has been set on the document, anytime someone tries to open it, they will be prompted for the password. This works for saving to a UW Medicine file share location or attaching and sending to someone in email. Keep in mind that if you send a password protected document as an attachment in email that you need to call or contact the person by a different method to provide them with the password to open the document.

Office 2010

There are very few differences between Office 2007 and Office 2010. The main difference is how you navigate to the encryption option.

In Office 2010 you need to left-click on the File option in the top-left menu. Now you need to select "Info" from the File dropdown menu, next you select "Protect Document" from the Info menu, and finally you will select "Encrypt with Password" from the Protect Document menu. Please see the image below for reference.

office

After selecting "Encrypt with Password" you will be asked to create a password for the document. You need to follow the same strong password requirements outlined on the End User Guidance page.

This is an example of the window that will appear requesting a password for the document:

office

You will be given options to save the document in an older format. DO NOT save the document in an older version of Office. If you save the document in an older version of Office than the encryption strength will be lessened.

Now that a password has been set on the document, anytime someone tries to open it, they will be prompted for the password. This works for saving to a UW Medicine file share location or attaching and sending to someone in email. Keep in mind that if you send a password protected document as an attachment in email that you need to call or contact the person by a different method to provide them with the password to open the document.

7-Zip

7-Zip is an open source application that can be used as a file archiver for compressing large files. 7-Zip files can be attached to emails with a large amount of data inside the compressed file so it is a very useful utility when needing to send multiple files via email outside of UW Medicine.

7-Zip can be downloaded from their website: 7-Zip

7-Zip files can be set to AES-256 encryption with use of a password. After installing 7-Zip you simply follow the steps below to encrypt the file(s)

  1. Right-click on the files or folder you want to compress and encrypt
  2. Select 7-Zip from the drop down menu
  3. Select "Add to archive..." from the side menu
  4. A window will open, change
    • Archive format to Zip
    • Encryption method to AES-256
    • Enter Password
  5. Attach to email or send in any method as an attachment

To decrypt the file, the person that receives it needs to right-click and choose to extract the contents and enter the password that you created for the file.

File Encryption Support

If you can't find guidance for the mobile device that you use and would like help securing it, please contact IT Services - Security at mcsos@uw.edu