We strongly encourage you to share documents with sensitive information using Google Drive. Sharing sensitive information directly in email is against College policy.
You should only send sensitive information via email using password-protected files when it is the only option. Sending via email, while the message is encrypted in transit, can sometimes cause misdirection (auto-fill) or errant forwarding of sensitive content. And frequently passwords used to “protect” files are easily guessable and weak - providing very little protection if the email were misdirected or received or accessible by the wrong person.
When sharing information - ask yourself these 2 questions to determine how the information will be used and by whom. This will help you assign the least privileges that are needed and suggest the best ways to manage access to the information.
- Does this person or group need access?
This will help you identify if you can share the information and with how many people based on their need to know, role, or other criteria.
- What access do they need?
This will help you think about whether they need to modify or update the data you are sharing, whether those changes need to be managed or coordinated, whether they only need the data for a specific amount of time, and whether they should be able to share, copy, download, or print the data, etc.
Instructions for Sharing Sensitive Information via Google Drive
Within the Amherst ecosystem (staff, faculty, trustees, students, volunteers, and alumni), share using Google Drive or Workday Drive. You have options to limit download, print and copy and you can even set expirations on the access. This also provides version control, collaboration, and transparency. The Amherst Google Workspace and Workday environments also require multi-factor authentication so you have more assurance that the person accessing the data is who they claim to be.
Google Drive now provides for visitor access as well - so you can share documents stored within the Amherst Google Drive with external parties who may not have a Google account. This provides the same or similar controls as those within the Amherst environment.
You can learn about visitor access at: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/9195194
When the external person/visitor gets the invitation to view the file you shared from Google Drive, they must verify their identity with a PIN. After that, they can collaborate on the shared file or folder for 7 days. If they need to access the file for longer, they can use the link from the original sharing email to verify their identity again.
Note: Visitors cannot create or upload new files or own data within the Amherst Google Drive environment.
Instructions for encrypting and sending sensitive personally identifiable information via email
Sending sensitive personally identifiable information directly through email is against College policy. Any sensitive information must be placed in a password-protected document if it must be shared via email.
Unfortunately, Google Drive and GMail do not offer a native way to add encryption to files. Google does provide encryption during transit and at rest within its environment but any files or messages will not be encrypted if the recipient forwards the message to another system or downloads the file to their own storage location.
If you need to send sensitive or personally identifiable information and using our preferred method through Google Drive is not an option, you must use the following instructions to secure the information when sending via email.
- Follow the Microsoft Support instructions for the type of office document you are using : https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/protect-a-document-with-a-password-05084cc3-300d-4c1a-8416-38d3e37d6826
- When you set the password for opening/reading the file be sure to make the password something that is easy for you to remember and hard for others to guess because you will not be able to access the file if you forget the password.
- Once you have saved the password protected file, create your message and attach the password protected file to the email and send to the recipient
- Provide the password created in step 2 above under separate cover to the recipient. Ideally, you should send the password you created to the recipient using a different channel, such as text, Slack, or phone call. If that is not feasible, be sure to create a separate email with a different subject line and put the password in the body of the message and send it to the recipient.
The recipient will be prompted to enter the password you provided when they try to read the attachment.
Note: You can use a similar process for password protecting Adobe PDF files. Here are Abobe’s instructions: https://www.adobe.com/acrobat/how-to/pdf-file-password-permissions.html