How to transfer files securely vie WeTransfer

Question of the week: How safe is file transfer via WeTransfer?

Question: “My email provider caps the maximum file size I can attach to emails at 10MB. It’s just far too small for me to transfer my vacation photos. An acquaintance of mine just recommended the WeTransfer service to me. It’s certainly really convenient, but are my files adequately protected?”

Answer: Sending high-res photos, videos, and other huge files can often be a real pain. Either your own email service provider doesn’t play ball or once you have managed to send the email, you get a reply saying the recipient’s inbox is full! In short: Attaching huge files to emails is anything but convenient. As such, WeTransfer is a great tip. The service lets you transfer files up to 2GB in size without even needing to log in or jump through any other hoops.

Files not protected on WeTransfer

That said, there’s one thing you should be aware of: When you transfer files using WeTransfer, you’re first uploading them to WeTransfer’s servers and then sending the recipient the download address by email. The process of uploading the files and sending the link is completely encrypted. While this poses no risk in itself:

  • The recipient receives an unencrypted email with a link to the file. Herein lies the issue, as third parties could intercept the email and gain access to the files.
  • WeTransfer also stores the files unencrypted, plus it uses servers based in the US. This means that under the USA Patriot Act every US company has to cough up its customers’ files – at least when the intelligence agencies such as the FBI come a-knocking. Not even a court order is required. The strict European data protection regulations don’t get a look in, even though WeTransfer was founded in the Netherlands.

As such, it’s very important that you don’t go transferring sensitive files such as information for your tax declaration, company documents, or personal photos unencrypted via WeTransfer.

How to send your files encrypted and securely via WeTransfer

The way out of this dilemma is to zip your files that you want to send via WeTransfer into a password-protected, encrypted file archive. Thanks to the free program 7-Zip, you can do this quickly and easily.

  1. Download 7-Zip for free from http://www.7-zip.com and install it.
  2. Using Windows Explorer copy all the files you want to send into a folder – you can skip this step if you just want to send one big file.
  3. Following that, right-click the folder (or file) that you want to encrypt. In the context menu select 7-Zip and Add to archive…. Select Zip as the archive format and AES-256 as the encryption method.
  4. Enter a password in the Encryption area. Once you click OK, the folder (or file) will be zipped and encrypted. You will find the folder or file in the same place with a .zip file extension.
  5. Send the file using WeTransfer. Now all you need to do is share the password with the recipient so the file(s) can be unzipped – it’s best to do that using a different means such as by phone, SMS, or WhatsApp. Be aware that the recipient will also need 7-Zip to enter the password and access the file(s).

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