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Encrypting Your Backed Up Zip Files

All modern Windows operating systems allow you to create Zip files without downloading external programs. A Zip file acts similar to a folder and allows you to store multiple files inside. However, it differs in that the Zip itself is considered a single file, allowing you to send it to co-workers with ease. Additionally, a Zip file will compress all the contents and reduce the file size, freeing up your disk space and making it quicker to send.

Windows does have the ability to encrypt your Zip files, but this method isn’t particularly secure. Encryption is essentially adding a secure layer of protection to your file. It stops malicious users being able to break into your file with ease; encryption will password protect it, often using advanced methods, meaning only those with the correct permissions can access the data.

Luckily, there are alternative programs out there that offer better encryption for Zip files. These include WinRAR and 7-Zip. For the purpose of this article we’ll be looking at the latter, but the same principles should apply for other programs too. 7-Zip can be downloaded for free from their official website.

To encrypt a specific file, right click it, select ‘7-Zip’ and then ‘Add to archive…’ from the list that appears. A new window will then open that will allow you to customise many options.

You should make the ‘Archive format’ to be a Zip. You can choose 7z if you so wish, but the recipient of the file (if there is one) will also need to have 7-Zip installed in order to extract the file.

Under ‘Encryption method’ you will have two options: ZipCrypto or AES-256. The former is not as strong, but has less compatibility issues. The latter is far stronger and only works with new systems or those that have 7-Zip installed. It is highly recommended that you select AES-256 as this is less easy for malicious users to brute attack (essentially force their way into the file).

Additionally, if you need to encrypt the name of the Zip file, then you’ll have to select the 7z format. You can then tick ‘Encrypt file names’ to make things even more secure. If you’re not using the 7z format then this will not be an option.

In order to decrypt the file you should just right click it, select ‘Extract’ and then enter the password when prompted. Make sure that this password is kept safe, because obviously anyone that knows it will be able to gain access to your data should they so wish.

Bear in mind that your password should not be a simple dictionary word. If you do then you’ll open yourself up to attack. It is very easy for someone to run a program that goes through common words until it finds a match. As such, make your password a mixture of letters and numbers and make it long.

Hopefully this guide has been useful in teaching you how to encrypt your Zip files. Remember that, ideally, all data on your drive should be encrypted in order to offer ultimate security.


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