Whats the most secure way to send a confidential file via email?

Posted on 2008-10-14
Last Modified: 2013-11-08

We want to send patient data to other hospitals / doctors via email on a infrequent basis(or other way if easily implemented).

This data must be sent in the most secure manner possible within reason, we are currently looking into sending it via a encrypted password protected WinZip file, which i believe is more secure than a password protected word file but still easily breakable. With the additional problem of the end user not having WinZip then they cant open it. (if we purchase an additional component for WinZip we can create a self extractable encrypted file but this does not resolve the weakness of the files)

What would be the best way it implement a secure method to email the patient data to other Hospitals or Doctors?

Additional note: UK private hospital NOT on N3 / NHS.

Thanks for your help.


PS: Have tried the Uk government (HMRC/DOD) method of leaving disk/laptop on the some random  bus or train hoping it will get there - dosen't seam to work. (just kidding)
Question by:Cromwellhospital
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Accepted Solution

xRalf earned 250 total points
ID: 22711630
Hello Cromwellhospital,

the most secure way is to use GPG and some mix system


LVL 14

Expert Comment

ID: 22712772
If emailing is a must and not secure file transfer (via say SSH) I would agree with xRalf's suggestion of GnuPG :)

LVL 27

Expert Comment

ID: 22713759
Well it all depends on what you've got on the receivers side.

If they are willing to use gnupg you are done. If not winzip is a good approach.
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Author Comment

ID: 22718601
The recievers side will vary immensely (webmail or outlook or o express - xp or full exchage server) and it can range from a doctor sitting in France to a 1000 user PCT hospital.

Our soloution needs to have  a way that relies on us providing a way that caters for all these situations.

Does any one know how hi-security / goverment organisations would achieve this?

Assisted Solution

xRalf earned 250 total points
ID: 22718636
The usual way to achieve high security is to use public key cryptography. Maybe it would be useful to employ some security specialist in your organization, make some security policy etc. High security is really very complex topic that needs specialist.

Try to study GPG for the beginning.
LVL 14

Expert Comment

ID: 22718653
As has been proved recently, high security organisations like the inland revenue and government in the UK just burn unencrypted data to a CD and pop it in an envelope (possibly with big red letters stamped on saying "confidential and valuable data - please do not steal this).  This seems to be adequate encryption for the powers that be....

All joking aside though - I don't think there's anything that is particularly secure AND user friendly.  I have seen this before though, but can't vouch for it's stability/security - but it might be worth investigating further...

The best way would undoubtedly be using GnuPG though if you can cope with the massive exercise of getting your recipients to install and configure correctly....
LVL 27

Expert Comment

ID: 22718793
Another approach could be to provide files on an ftp server is HIPAA Compliant.

Advantage the enduser doesn't have to install any special software can just use the webbrowser.


Expert Comment

ID: 22722382
Chances are there are regulations governing the protection of personal data. In Canada there is anyway.
Before you settle on any solution, consult with these regulations so that you are compliant and thus reduce your liability. At least you would have plausible deniability should there be a leak.

Expert Comment

ID: 22749241
You need to maintain standards among doctors. I mean you must use same program or web mail service throughout your network. For web-mail service, use HushMail. The condition is that the other user must also use HushMail. The advantage is end-to-end encrypted mailing. You don't need to encrypt any mail. You just type plain text and send mail.

Hush has other services too. Please visit:

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