How to Password Protect ZIP Files (Fast & Safe) | #linux | #linuxsecurity | #education | #technology | #infosec


Archiving and Hiding Sensitive Documents

Maybe you use ZIP files and folders to organize important documents while saving space. Or perhaps you want to share several project files in a folder without sending multiple emails. 

Regardless of how you use ZIP files, you should be aware of the risks. The format is convenient, but it’s not immune to the issues any shared file faces (especially on communal computers or cloud accounts). Cybercriminals and general snoops can still manipulate archived files, so it’s a good idea to add an extra layer of security. 

If you’re looking for a way to secure your ZIP files, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll show you how to password protect your folders and add layers of encryption to keep cybercriminals out for good.

What Are ZIP Files? 

ZIP is an archive format that compresses files and folders, changing the extension to .zip once complete. 

If you ZIP a 16Mb file, the size is commonly reduced to around 6.5Mb, which decreases the amount of space needed to store it on your drive. 

What Types of Files Can Be Zipped? 

The good news is you can ZIP just about any file format, including text, images, applications, and more. 

However, the percentage of compression varies by the types of files you want to ZIP. Roughly 45-50% of a program file can be compressed, while you may compress around 80-90% of standard files (like image or text formats).

Commonly Compressed Files
.doc, .docx, .txt, .pdf, .rtf, .exe, .mp4, .mp3, .mov, .jpg, .png,
.pptx, .xls, .wks, .dis, .xlsx, .numbers, .wk3

Benefits of Compressing Files and Folders

    ✅ Save Space On Your Device 

When you ZIP a file or folder, it doesn’t change the contents or alter any of the information, so you can delete the original file. This leaves just the zipped file, which takes up less space. If you need the data again, simply unzip the file or folder. 

You can easily transfer zipped files and folders between devices using cables, memory cards, USB drives, and external hard drives. The files contain more data than the original unzipped versions, but the compression makes them an excellent way to move files quickly. Copying 20 zipped images is significantly faster (around 5x), than individually copying the same number of images in a standard file.

    ✅ Decrease Network Resource Use

Because they are compressed, zipped files reduce the network resources it takes to transfer them via local networks, email, or public networks. 

Most email services have size limitations for file transfers, so reducing file size by 50% makes sense. It allows you to send more crucial information in one email, increasing efficiency and security. 

Organizing documents and subfolders into one folder and compressing it means you can put everything you need in one spot. Once the main file is zipped, you can password protect or encrypt the file for added security if you need to upload it to a cloud service. 

Everything will be in one place, so you can unzip only the items you need, saving valuable space and time spent digging for files.

Best File Archiving Apps in 2022
App Compatible With Opens/Extracts
WinZip Windows, macOS, iOS, Android ISO, IMG, RAR, 7Z, CAB, UUencoded, Zip, TAR, and more
7Zip Linux (p7zip) and Windows 7Z, BZIP2, TAR, ZIP, WIM, XZ, GZIP, and more
PeaZip Linux and Windows BZIP2, ZPAQ, PEA, QUAD, ZIP, TAR, UPX, 7Z, and more
BetterZip macOS XAR, 7ZIP, DMG, ZIP, TAR, TZ, Brotli, TGZ, TXZ, and more

How to Password Protect A ZIP File

Linux and macOS both offer a way to password protect ZIP files without adding a third-party app. Windows, however, requires an app like WinZip or 7Zip to add a password. 

Still, in many cases, a designated app is faster than manually entering commands and leaves less room for human error. Let’s look at how to password protect a folder on various operating systems.

Windows

Windows 7, 8, and 10 don’t offer a built-in way to password protect ZIP files and folders. You’ll need to download an app called WinZip to password protect a folder for Windows. Here’s what to do:

  1. Right-click on the folder you want to password protect and open it using WinZip.
  2. Click on ‘Encrypt’ and you’ll be prompted to enter a password. 
  3. That’s it — your ZIP file is encrypted and password protected.

Linux

The Graphical User Interface (GUI) method for password protecting a ZIP file is fairly straightforward, but does take a bit of know-how. 

Before you begin, make sure you’ve installed the correct ZIP utility for your Linux distro. Then, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the ‘Terminal’ and type ‘$ zip -e my-zip-file.zip downloads/’.
  2. Enter and verify your password (it won’t show in the window).

macOS

The fastest way to password protect a ZIP file on macOS is to use WinZip, using the same instructions for Windows ZIP files. However, you can also do it without installing an app. To use the ‘Terminal’ app preinstalled on macOS, follow the steps below.

  1. Go to ‘Utilities’ and click on ‘Terminal’.
  2. Type ‘cd’ and the name of the directory you want to save to (ex. cd desktop).
  3. Type ‘zip -er YourFileNameHere.zip’ and add a space (Ex. zip -er hiddengems.zip ).
  4. Drag the ZIP file into the ‘Terminal’ window, click the ‘Return’ button.
  5. Enter your password (it won’t show in the window).
  6. Click the ‘Return’ button twice.

Can You Recover a Password-Protected ZIP File?

We’ve all experienced it — the panic spiral caused by forgetting a password to an essential account or file. 

Luckily, there are ways to recover essential password-protected ZIP files and folders, but you need professional tools. Software like ZIP Passwords and PassRec for ZIP can help you unlock password-protected ZIP files and folders without compromising the contents. 

Can You Encrypt ZIP Files?

Encrypting ZIP files and folders is simple with the right apps. I recommend WinZip because it’s compatible with most major operating systems, including Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android. 

Encrypt and ZIP Files with WinZip in 3 Steps
1- Open ‘WinZip’ and click ‘Encrypt’ in the ‘Actions’ pane.
2- Drag your files/folders into the ‘NewZip.zip’ pane, create a password, then click ‘OK’.
3- In the ‘Actions’ pane choose ‘Options’ and then ‘Encryption Settings’, set your encryption level, and click ‘Save’.
Encrypt and Zip Files with 7Zip in 3 Steps
1- Right click on the file/folder you need to compress and encrypt, select ‘7Zip’.
2- Click ‘Add to Archive’ and change the format to ‘ZIP’ in the ‘Archive’ window.
3- Under ‘Encryption Method’ choose ‘256-bit AES’, then enter a strong password and click ‘OK’.

Do I Need To Encrypt ZIP Files?

You don’t have to encrypt a ZIP file if it’s already password-protected, but doing so adds another layer of security. 

You could also use a VPN to secure your connection, rather than encrypting the actual file. This adds extra security while transferring the file over your network and encrypts all of your traffic — rather than just the file.

After all, a lot can happen in the time it takes to email even a lightweight file or upload it to the cloud. Cybercriminals could intercept and manipulate the files using malicious code, and gain access to sensitive information. 

Private Internet Access protects your compressed files with 256-bit AES encryption while in transit. Both encryption methods are unhackable, and mask your traffic to prevent spying and data theft. 

You also benefit from OpenVPN, which is one of the most trustworthy tunneling protocols for transferring your data from point A to point B over the internet. That way, you know your connections are always secure and no one can access the files you’re sharing.

Get Private Internet Access to secure your files and prevent cybercriminals (and anyone else!) from manipulating the sensitive documents you send online.

How Do You Hide a File or Folder?

Even if a file is zipped and password-protected, hiding it is still an excellent way to keep the contents from other users if you’re on a communal computer. The process of hiding this type of content varies greatly depending on which operating system you’re using.

Windows macOS Linux
1. Right-click on the file/folder.
2. Click on ‘Properties’.
3. Check the ‘Hidden’ box next to ‘Attributes’.
4. Click ‘OK’.
1. Click on ‘Applications’.
2. Open the ‘Terminal’.
3. Type in chflags hidden.
4. Drag the file/folder into the terminal window.
1. Right-click on the file/folder.
2. Click on ‘Rename’.
3. Add a period before the file/folder name.

Accessing a hidden file or folder

Revealing a hidden folder isn’t difficult, you just have to know where to look. Again, it will depend on your operating system.

  • Windows: Click ‘this PC’ >choose the drive you hid the file in (usually C:) >click the ‘View’ tab >check ‘Hidden Items’ >the file will appear.
  • macOS: Hit CMD + Shift + G, then type in the folder path to pull it up. You can also open the ‘Terminal’ and use the command line ‘chflags nohidden’ to unhide the folder.
  • Linux: Open ‘File Manager’ and hit CTRL + H to view hidden files.

Secure Sensitive ZIP Files with Passwords

Zipping files and folders saves space, makes transfer easier, and saves network resources by providing a lightweight file in place of a bulky one. While this is an excellent way to share large folders full of documents, compressing files isn’t enough to protect them

To prevent third parties from accessing ZIP files and folders on your device or the Cloud, you need to add password protection. Additionally, encrypting those files, or using a VPN while transferring files online, can add extra security. 

Private Internet Access uses the latest security protocols, including OpenVPN and WireGuard, to tunnel your information securely from one site to another. PIA also provides a Kill Switch to prevent accidental location exposure and download tracking if you’re suddenly disconnected from the internet. That way, you not only save space, but you add a layer of security to password protected and encrypted ZIP files during transfer. 

FAQs

What is a ZIP file?

A ZIP file is a file that has been compressed, often to save space on drives or make transferring the file easier. Zipping a file can cut the size of a file by 50-90% depending on what types of files you’re compressing

Password-protected ZIP files and folders are .zip extensions that require a password to open. If you password protect a ZIP file, it’s critical to store the password somewhere safe, as you won’t be able to access the file without it.

Do you need an app to password protect ZIP files?

Some operating systems, like Linux and macOS, offer ways to password protect a ZIP file without adding additional apps or software. Windows 7, 8, and 10 don’t offer password protection for ZIP files, so you’ll need a separate app (ex. WinZip) to password protect these files. 

Regardless of if your device has the built-in ability to password protect ZIP files, you should still download a VPN. Get Private Internet Access to stay safe when sharing data online.

What are the best file archiving apps?

WinZip offers the best cross-compatibility of all the archiving apps I tested, but it doesn’t have a Linux app. If you use a Linux distro, 7Zip or PeaZip are excellent choices. 

Once a file is archived (zipped), adding extra security like password protection or encryption keeps it secure on your device. 

Still, transferring the file or folder to the cloud or over the internet comes with more risks. To ensure your file is protected as it travels between destinations, you should consider using secure tunneling protocols via a VPN.

Can you hide a file or folder?

Yes, hiding any file or folder is simple on most operating systems. In Windows, right-click the file, select ‘Properties’, and check ‘Hide’. For Linux, all you need to do is add a period (.) at the beginning of the file and it defaults to hidden. On macOS, click ‘Terminal’ and enter the command ‘chflags hidden’, then drag the file you want to hide into the Terminal window.

In addition to hiding your file or folder on your device, you can benefit from adding VPN protection. PIA prevents snoops and cybercriminals from discovering your true location and what you do online using advanced encryption, so your activity won’t be traced back to your device. 

Can ZIP files be corrupted?

Yes. You may see error messages such as ‘ZIP file corrupt’ and ‘bad disk or file transfer’. These errors could mean someone attempted to intercept the file or the file was unable to complete due to poor connection speeds. You may also receive a Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) error, which means the file itself or the drive it’s stored on has an issue. That doesn’t mean you should immediately scrap the zipped file or folder. Try these recovery tools to help you restore some or all of the files. 

ZIP File Recovery Tools
WINRAR: Open the file in WINRAR and click ‘Repair’ in the toolbar, when prompted, select your destination for the repaired file (e.g., Desktop, Documents, etc.). Next, choose the file archive type, and click ‘OK’.

Zip2Fix: Open the file in Zip2Fix and it will automatically begin the recovery process. Once it’s done it will save the repaired file to the original files source directory.

To stop anyone from intercepting your file in the first place, use a VPN. Encrypt your traffic with PIA, which uses the safest protocols — like OpenVPN and WireGuard — for end-to-end protection. #0693e3

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