Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Search the University of Manchester siteSearch Menu StaffNet

IT Know How Tip: The key to encryption

05 Jun 2013

Documents and files containing sensitive or personal information should be stored in a secure location; however, if you have to send these files externally they need to be password protected. This will help prevent unauthorised access and changes.

Passwords set through Microsoft Office documents (2003 and earlier versions) are not secure enough for files containing confidential data. These passwords can be easily broken by someone with the right knowledge and tools. However, using Microsoft office encryption passwords is recommended if you are running Office 2007 or later. An alternative method is 7-Zip, which is already available on your computer and provides a secure way of encrypting documents.

Remember, the encryption is only as strong as the password protecting it. Make sure passphrases have a minimum of 20 characters and use a mix of upper and lower case, numeric and special characters. When sending an encrypting document, do not send the password by email. Tell the recipient in person, via the phone or through mobile phone text messaging only.


  • Do I need to send this document at all?
  • Is this sensitive or personal?
  • Is this going to the right person?
  • Is any extra information included in the document which should not be sent?

IT Know How Tips

This article forms part of a series of ongoing IT Know How Tips produced by The Directorate of IT Services. Keep an eye out for our tips every other week to find out relevant hints and facts.

Further information

For news, information and service updates, follow: