encryption, Cybersecurity How to Enable File Encryption in Microsoft Office

file encryption

Any business that deals with sensitive information has to be cautious with it. One way confidential data can be made secure is through file encryption. Your Microsoft Office files are a good place to start.

How File Encryption Works

File encryption is one of the most reliable ways to secure data. According to BBC, “encryption is a way of scrambling computer data so it can only be read by the people you want.” We have a more in-depth blog unpacking the process, but it basically involves the use of virtual keys to lock and unlock restricted data.

Encryption in Microsoft Office 2013/2016

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Encrypting files in Microsoft Office is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is:

  • Click File>Info>Protect Document.
  • Select Encrypt with Password.
  • Enter your password and press Enter.

Now your file is encrypted, and won’t open unless the password is entered.

To remove a password:

  • Click File>Info>Protect Document.
  • Select Encrypt with Password.
  • Delete the password in the Encrypt Document

Note: This works for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, not OneNote.

file encryption

Microsoft OneNote

In Microsoft OneNote, encryption works a bit differently. In OneNote, a document may consist of many different notes over several different notebooks, so encoding each one is a bit more time consuming.

To encrypt a notebook:

  • Right-click the desired section and select Password Protect this Section.
  • Enter a password and press OK.

If you have several password-protected notebooks, they can call be locked at once. To do so:

  • Right-click a password-protected section.
  • Under All Protected Sections, select Lock All.

Alternatively, you can use the shortcut CTRL+ALT+L.

Auto-Locking in OneNote

Encrypted OneNote files that are left unlocked will automatically lock if not used after a certain period of time. It can be useful, but also a pain in the neck if you’re jumping between several notebooks. To customize the time it takes to lock:

  • Click File>Options>Advanced.
  • Scroll down to Passwords.
  • Choose your preferred time from the dropdown menu.

Encryption Strength

You may notice that the Microsoft Office Customization Tool has a feature that allows you to change the encryption strength. However, it’s not recommended that you do so, because the default settings are strong enough to deter the vast majority of cyberattacks. It would take a deeply knowledgeable hacker who also has some outrageously strong hacking software in order to crack the code.

If you’re thinking about introducing file encryption into your business’ cybersecurity plan, make sure everyone in the office is onboard. Your network is only as strong as its weakest link.

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