Is It Safe To Put Sensitive Files In Google Drive? (7 Tips)
By Larry Li
June 3, 2022
Google Drive is one of the most popular online storage platforms in the world. You probably store dozens of miscellaneous documents and files on Google Drive without a second thought.
But is it safe to put sensitive files in Google Drive?
The truth is, nothing is 100% secure when you store it online. However, Google Drive is generally very secure because Google encrypts your data while it’s being stored or transferred. Although you can store sensitive files in Google Drive with low risk, there are better digital storage options that offer more security.
You should store sensitive files like Social Security numbers, bank account passwords, and estate documents like wills in a highly secure digital storage platform like Trustworthy. If you choose to store sensitive files in Google Drive, I’ll explain the best way to keep your files secure in today’s guide.
This crucial guide about storing sensitive files in Google Drive will cover:
How safe is Google Drive for storing sensitive files
How Google Drive may be vulnerable
7 tips for storing sensitive files in Google Drive
Types of files you should not store on Google Drive
Google Drive alternatives for storing sensitive files
Let’s jump right in.
How Safe Is Google Drive For Storing Sensitive Files?
When you upload files to Google Drive, your files are stored in Google servers all over the world. So let’s discuss what kind of security Google offers for its servers. This way, you will understand the risks of storing sensitive files on Google Drive.
Technically speaking, Google Drive uses 128-bit AES keys for files at rest and 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption for files in transit. This means that Google uses a heightened encryption protocol when you’re uploading, accessing, or downloading your files stored on Google Drive.
Google uses stronger encryption for files in transit because the risks of data being stolen are the highest when files are being transferred over the open internet. A cyberhacker that’s on your network can potentially intercept the data as your files are transferred from your computer to Google Drive.
Luckily, 256-bit encryption makes this extremely difficult for the hacker. Nevertheless, Google Drive's encryption is done on the server-side. This means you are completely relying on Google to keep your files safe.
How Google Drive May Be Vulnerable
Since Google is used by billions of users from around the world, it has become a prime target for hackers. Even though your files are encrypted and secured in Google Drive, hackers may be able to find your account password and log in to your account.
Since being founded in 1998, Google has dealt with several exploits and hacking attempts. According to CNN, around 5 million Gmail account passwords were leaked on a Russian forum in 2014. This leak doesn’t give you confidence about storing sensitive files on Google Drive.
Furthermore, a bug in the Google+ API exposed user data from 52.5 million Google accounts in 2018. This caused numerous security implications where hackers had an opportunity to extract large amounts of information like profile data and email addresses.
There are also many Google Drive scams that make storing sensitive files on Google Drive risky.
A few of these scams that hackers use include:
Creating fake Google Drive clone websites
Hiding malware in Google Drive files
Leaving comments with phishing links
All of these scams lead to a hacker getting your account email and password. They can then log in to your account and access your files.
7 Tips For Storing Sensitive Files In Google Drive
Even if you understand the risks of storing sensitive files in Google Drive, you may still choose to do so. This is because Google Drive is free, convenient, and easy to use. If you choose to store sensitive files in Google Drive, here are 7 essential tips you should follow.
1. Create a Strong and Unique Password
Since your files are secured in Google’s encrypted servers, you need to focus on keeping your account safe. This is why it’s essential to use a strong password. A strong password will consist of letters, numbers, and symbols. Strong passwords are also longer, so I recommend making your password at least 12 characters long.
Furthermore, you should avoid using personal info and common words. To create a long password that’s easy to remember, you can use:
A meaningful quote from a speech or movie
A lyric from your favorite song or poem
A line from your favorite book
A series of meaningful words
Be sure to add a series of numbers and symbols to your password to make it even more secure.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Once you create a strong Google Drive password, the next step is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA). First, go into your Google account settings and navigate to the account security or password section. Next, click on ‘2-Step Verification’. You’ll be given a few options of which authentication method you want to use.
Choose your preferred method, such as getting an SMS text message with a code or using an authentication app on your phone. Once you set up the Google 2-Step Verification, you’ll need to provide two pieces of information every time you log in to your Google account. This ensures hackers can’t access your Google Drive data even if they have your password.
3. Be Careful of Who You Share Files With
You should only share access to your Google Drive files with the specific people who need it. You have two permissions options when sharing files with others: ‘Restricted’ or ‘Anyone with the link’.
If you choose ‘Anyone with the link’, the person you share the file with has complete freedom to share the link with anybody else. For this reason, you should only share access with another person by adding their email address to the Google Drive file. This way, the other individual can only view the file while logged into their Google account, and can’t send the link to others.
4. Don’t Click Suspicious Links or Download Risky Files
As you’re browsing around on the internet, it’s crucial to avoid clicking suspicious links. More importantly, you must completely avoid downloading risky files and programs. Phishing is a major threat nowadays as cyber criminals send fraudulent messages designed to trick an individual into revealing sensitive information.
5. Review Shared Documents Regularly
When you share access to a file on Google Drive with another person, the other individual will have access until you remove them. As such, I recommend auditing your shared documents regularly and removing shared permissions from anybody who doesn’t need them anymore.
6. Audit Linked Google Drive Apps
Google Drive allows third-party app integrations that you may use to work more efficiently. If you do use third-party Google Drive apps, it’s important to audit your linked Google Drive apps. This is because linked apps potentially access a lot of data on your account.
Go to your Google Drive settings and locate ‘Manage Apps’. Here, you can view a list of apps that are connected to your Google Drive account. Then, delete any apps that you are no longer using by clicking ‘Options’ and ‘Disconnect from Drive’.
7. Don’t Allow Other Editors to Change Permissions
If you allow other individuals to edit your Google Drive files, you must disable the option that lets those users add additional editors. Therefore, you should be the only person who decides who’s allowed to make changes to the file.
To change this setting, click the ‘Share’ button on a shared Google Drive file. Then, click the ‘Gear’ icon on the top-right of the ‘Share with people and groups’ section. Now, uncheck ‘Editors can change permissions and share’ to prevent other editors from changing the file’s permissions.
Types of Files You Should NOT Store On Google Drive
Keeping files like your favorite music, family photo albums, and blog drafts on Google Drive doesn’t pose much risk because these aren’t sensitive files. However, you shouldn’t upload highly sensitive files such as a Social Security number, bank account information, and payment card information.
As I covered in this guide, your files are never completely safe when you store them on Google Drive. This is why you shouldn’t store sensitive files on Google Drive.
Here’s a list of files you shouldn’t store on Google Drive:
Estate planning documents like wills or beneficiary designations
Life insurance documents
Home insurance documents
Having these files fall into the wrong hands can lead to a devastating situation. Fortunately, there are better alternatives for Google Drive that provide more security and peace of mind.
Let’s discuss these alternatives now.
Google Drive Alternatives for Storing Sensitive Files
Google Drive leaves a lot to be desired as a storage platform for storing sensitive files. Even though many people do use Google Drive to store sensitive information, it isn’t the most organized or secure platform to keep your files safe.
Here are the best Google Drive alternatives for storing sensitive files.
Trustworthy is a digital storage platform designed to help families store, organize, and manage sensitive files. With best-in-class, 256-AES encryption, Trustworthy is the safest online storage solution to store sensitive information.
Trustworthy’s online software has built-in sections where you can store:
Personal ID numbers
Bank account information
Emergency planning documents
This way, you can keep all of your sensitive files in one convenient and easily accessible location. Built to help families organize their lives, Trustworthy is a people-first Family Operating System® that offers secure sharing capabilities.
You can grant access to specific files to whoever you choose. For instance, you can share the family archive folder containing vacation photos with your entire family but only grant your spouse access to bank account information.
Information overload is a significant problem in the modern times we live in. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of important documents to keep track of, and Trustworthy makes it easy to access everything on one secure digital platform.
Furthermore, Trustworthy (click here to start your free trial) guides you on what information you should upload to your account and how to organize all of your documents. Online storage platforms like Google Drive don’t offer personal guidance on how to store sensitive information. Furthermore, platforms like Google Drive aren’t designed explicitly for storing sensitive files.
Everplans is another Google Drive alternative that was specifically created to help families organize their sensitive files. This platform offers step-by-step onboarding guidance, secure storage capabilities, and sharing features for loved ones or advisors.
However, when it comes to Everplans vs Trustworthy, Everplans doesn’t offer as many features or customer support options. Furthermore, the platform’s interface isn’t as easy to use or as organized as Trustworthy’s dashboard. Nonetheless, Everplans is a competent solution for individuals looking for an affordable and secure way to store sensitive files online.
Cake is a digital storage platform that’s used as an end-of-life planning tool to create and upload documents like wills, advance medical directives, and estate planning documents. You can then share access to these documents with loved ones or legal counsel.
The primary difference between Cake and the other alternatives in Trustworthy and Everplans is that Cake is solely focused on end-of-life planning. For this reason, you shouldn’t use Cake to store other sensitive information like family IDs and bank account information.
On the other hand, Trustworthy offers end-of-life planning as one of its foundational features. In addition to end-of-life planning, you can use Trustworthy for everyday family life and all the other sensitive files you may need to secure.