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Password Protect Excel Files to Prevent Unauthorized Data Access

Key Points:

  • Microsoft Excel remains the most popular spreadsheet application on the planet.
  • However, spreadsheet data are often sensitive, personal, or financial and require access restrictions to prevent unintended individuals from viewing them.
  • If your business uses Excel to collate and analyze data, track payrolls, and prepare other sensitive work-related functions, encryption can help you limit access to specific people.
  • You can use Excel’s encryption utility to password-protect your file and guard your sensitive work or financial data.

Excel files often contain sensitive information such as pricing and salary, credit card numbers, payrolls, and other work-related sensitive information. If an unauthorized individual gets access to such data, they can damage the information, leverage it to launch attacks or use it to sabotage your system.

One of the best ways to protect work-related Excel files from unauthorized access is by encrypting them with a password. Password encryption ensures that only specific people can access the data in the spreadsheet.

Why Businesses Need to Encrypt Their Excel Files

While many people store personal projects, financial budgets, and related information on a spreadsheet, businesses use Excel on large scales.

Many organizations and industries use networks of spreadsheets to track inventory transactions and sales, government agency data, and several business data. After the creation of spreadsheets, businesses used secure sharing through internal networks.

While secure sharing is critical to any organization, an unintended person on the receiving end might have access to the data on the Excel file and compromise business confidentiality.

To improve your business Excel file security and limit data access to only specific individuals or groups of people, you’ll need to add password encryption to Excel files.

How to Add a Password to Excel File

A password will help you avoid the risk of unauthorized access to your data. Here’s how to password-protect an Excel file:

  1. Go to Excel and open the file you want to password-protect.
  2. Select the File tab at the top of the screen. A new window will open.
  3. Select Info on the left pane to open a new window on your right.
  4. Choose Protect Workbook. A drop-down menu will open.
  5. Select the type of protection you want to use. You can select between encrypting the file with a password or restricting access to your Excel file to specific users.
  6. Click on Encrypt with Password option.
  7. Excel will prompt you to enter your password. Choose a strong password that no one can easily guess and hit the OK button.
  8. Reenter the password to confirm your password and click the OK button to encrypt your file.

Your file is now protected. If you open it, it’ll ask you for the password to grant you access.

Caution About Encrypting Excel File

Before encrypting your Excel file, remember the following:

  • Microsoft cannot retrieve a forgotten Excel password. Use a memorable password to avoid a permanent access loss.
  • Microsoft has no password restriction regarding the length, characters, or numbers. However, Excel passwords are case-sensitive.
  • Even with password restrictions, avoid distributing Excel files containing sensitive information such as credit card numbers.
  • Take caution when sharing file passwords and file with other people. Even with encryption, you risk the password landing on the unintended individual. Encrypting the file doesn’t necessarily protect the file from malicious intent.

Securing Your Excel File Password

After encrypting your Excel file, your next task is securing the password. Forgetting your password means complete loss of your file because it’s nearly impossible to recover passwords for encrypted Excel files. Your best shot is at maintaining your password securely in case someone else needs to review or revise the file in the future.

To protect the data in your Excel file, you can change the password every one or two months. You can then save the passwords to a password manager. The password update will help you revoke access to employees or staff that have left. That way, the data on your Excel file will be secure even when an employee or staff stops working with your business.

The Menace of Assigning Password to Individual Excel Files and How to Help It

Some businesses use a few Excel sheets to track data and update information. However, other organizations have complex systems of spreadsheets they work on regularly. Assigning a password to each of the Excel files might appear tedious.

However, you shouldn’t skip the password encryption step to the many files because it requires much effort. Instead, you can store all your Excel documents in a central file and password-protect them for easy retrieval.

When you need to maintain an extensive list of passwords, you can store them in a password manager or a similar system to ensure you never get locked out of your files. If you’re protecting a series of Excel files, you might want to use relatable words or a consistent theme to ensure the passwords are easy to remember.

More Ways to Protect Excel Files

No question, encrypting Excel files with passwords is the best way to protect worksheets. However, with limited access, there are other measures you can take to further secure data in an Excel file, such as:

  • Set parameters around sections of your spreadsheet that no one else can change or edit to protect the integrity of the data. The parameters are especially critical if your file link to other Excel files that depend on formulas and updated data to offer accurate results.
  • Changing Excel file passwords frequently and updating them in a password manager. Password updates allow your company to lock out employees and staff who left. Quick password updates ensure that only current employees can view your business worksheet.
  • Using the “view” and “edit” permissions levels to define who can make changes and people who can only view. For instance, you can disable editing for everyone when sharing an Excel file for reference only. The team or the individual doesn’t need additional privileges to use the data in the form.

Palindrome Consulting Will Help Your Business Protect Its Sensitive Information

Many businesses use spreadsheets that contain sensitive information. Controlling file access is one of many ways of ensuring maximum privacy. Palindrome Consulting can help your business implement all security and privacy necessary to ensure the sensitive data you handle don’t get compromised. Contact us today to help you secure the data you share.

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Elizabeth Mitrani
Elizabeth Mitrani
17:23 06 Aug 19
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