Here’s how secure WinZip password protected files are:
WinZip password-protected files are extremely secure.
They use military-grade encryption that is very unlikely to ever be cracked by a direct attack.
As long as the password used to protect the files is secure, the WinZip security methods are robust and reliable for consumer and industrial use alike.
So if you want to learn all about how safe WinZip encryption is exactly, then this article is for you.
How Does WinZip Protect Files? (2 Things)
WinZip does a few things to protect your files.
Most importantly, it allows you to encrypt your files.
You can encrypt them one at a time, or you can group them together and encrypt a whole folder.
I’ll get into the details of what this really means and how it works.
But, the overhead view is that encryption is very important to file security, and WinZip offers powerful encryption.
WinZip also allows you to essentially handpick how you use it, and if you put a little strategy into that, you can make your files even more secure.
Again, I’ll go through the details in a bit, but this level of freedom ultimately allows you to expand file security by very large amounts.
WinZip uses 128-bit and 356-bit AES encryption to protect files.
That’s a lot of technical jargon, so let’s break it down one piece at a time.
First, what is encryption?
This is a way for computers to scramble data so that if stolen, it can’t be read.
Think about an old pen-and-paper code that a spy might have used.
Instead of just writing important information, they would try to mask the contents of a letter by using codes.
So, if the letter was intercepted, enemies wouldn’t be able to make sense of what was written.
Encryption takes this concept and computerizes it.
A digital cipher key is used to turn readable text into something called ciphertext.
Basically, every letter or number in a line of text is replaced by something else that appears random.
The method to do this is governed by the encryption key (or cipher key), and only using that key can you decipher the text back into its real meaning.
It might make more sense with an example.
Let’s use a sample sentence, “This is a plaintext.”
If it is put through encryption, then it would look like this, “Aopz pz h wshpualea.” (Example taken from Encryption Consulting)
The ciphertext doesn’t make any sense.
But, you can use the encryption key to work backward and turn it back into the original sentence, “This is plaintext.”
That’s how encryption hides information that you don’t want other people to be able to see. Without the key, it never makes sense.
But, there’s more to the nuts and bolts of what is happening, so it’s time to go over bit sizes and AES next.
#2 Bit Sizes in Encryption
Clearly, the encryption key is very important.
It’s what holds the instructions for how to encrypt or decrypt any bit of information.
But, what you might not realize is that the keys come in different sizes.
As these are computer tools, the sizes are measured in bits.
A key can have more bits or fewer bits, and having more bits makes it harder to crack.
WinZip offers both 128-bit and 256-bit encryption.
So, the 256-bit encryption option is substantially more secure, but even 128-bit encryption is pretty tough.
Without taking you through a graduate program in digital security, it’s probably easiest to think of encryption key sizes in terms of how hard they are to crack.
In order to decipher encrypted text without a key, you basically have to guess the key.
So, a longer key has more possible combinations, so it’s harder to guess.
Think of it this way.
If you were trying to crack a safe, it would be hard enough to guess the right combination of three numbers to get the safe to open.
But what if instead, you had to guess 128 numbers correctly in a row to open the safe.
That’s insurmountable, and that’s the idea behind large encryption keys.
This is probably the easiest way to break it down.
If you were to take a powerful home computer and use it to try to guess a 128-bit key, it would take around 500 billion years to guess one key.
Keep in mind that the universe is estimated to be around 13.8 billion years old, so 128-bit encryption is very secure.
Extend that to 256-bit encryption, and it would take longer than even makes sense to try to crack the key.
Multiple universes could begin and end, and still the key would be secure. It’s genuinely mind-boggling.
What Is AES? (3 Points)
There’s one more term I have to describe to finish explaining WinZip encryption, and that’s AES.
It stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, and it’s one of the most trusted forms of encryption in modern computing.
For starters, it’s a symmetric encryption option.
This means that there is only one key needed to encrypt and decrypt data.
That keeps things simple without compromising security.
It’s also a robust form of encryption.
It uses a method that basically encrypts the files multiple times before being satisfied.
So, if you applied the key a single time, the information is pretty scrambled.
But if you take the key and apply it to the scrambled text, things are even harder to decipher.
AES does this process several times to ensure that there is no way you could ever reverse-engineer the original data without the key.
Let’s summarize WinZip encryption. It’s thorough.
It’s available in very secure and super-extra-supremely secure bit sizes. It uses AES, which is basically impenetrable.
Overall, it’s a very secure form of encryption, and encryption is only one aspect of how WinZip offers security.
#1 Password Protected Keys
Now that you’ve been through the long spiel on encryption, one thing might be clear.
Everything hinges on the encryption key.
So, if someone can get their hands on the key, then everything unravels.
By default, WinZip also encrypts the key itself. This secondary encryption is protected by a password.
So, the only way to access the key is to have the original password.
While this is pretty standard for file encryption, it’s an important step.
No one can just find your encryption key lying around in the files of your computer somewhere. That essential piece of information is protected.
So, the only way to access a WinZip file or folder is to have the password.
Now, this does bring up an important tangent.
Password-protected encryption is really only as secure as the password itself.
If someone can guess your password, they can access your files.
So, if you want to enjoy the powerful security offered by WinZip, you have to use a strong password.
#2 How to Pick a Secure Password
Let’s go ahead and spend a minute talking about secure passwords, since they’re integral to WinZip encryption.
There are three components to a strong password.
It should be long, complex, and difficult to guess.
Length is easy.
Use as many characters as the software will allow.
Every time you add a character to a password, you make it exponentially harder to crack.
As for complexity, that means you should use letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols.
You see, the easiest way to crack a password is to use software to guess a bunch of times.
Most cracking software will guess the most likely passwords first, and those guesses don’t include as many symbols or as much complexity in general.
Most importantly, password guessing is built on the study of common passwords.
So, if your password is a common word or phrase, the software will guess it a lot faster than you might realize.
It’s better to have a randomly generated password because it won’t include words or phrases that are commonly used.
Alternatively, password guessing involves checking all possible passwords and passphrases until the correct one is found. That’s called a brute-force attack.
Keep in mind that password-guessing software only gets more sophisticated and capable, so it’s increasingly important to take password security safely and implement these principles to the best of your ability.
#3 Individual File Protection
Another powerful aspect of WinZip security is that you can encrypt individual files and folders.
You see, a common way to protect information on a device is to encrypt the entire disk.
This means that everything on the device is encrypted, and a single key and password locks or unlocks all information on the device.
That’s certainly powerful, but WinZip offers additional security.
Since each file or folder can be individually protected, you generate multiple encryption keys.
Imagine you want to secure sensitive information for work.
To keep it simple, let’s say you have a bunch of client and financial information in a pair of files.
The financial information is in one file, and the client list is in the other.
In order to match clients to their financial information, you need both files.
If you encrypt each file separately, then someone trying to steal this information would need to get through two passwords, two encryption keys, or two AES encryptions in order to make use of either file.
It’s an exponential increase in overall security.
Granted, doing this requires you to separate data accordingly and then take the time to encrypt files or folders one at a time as you see fit.
But the option exists, and you can compound your security to extraordinary degrees if you want to.
What Are the Drawbacks to WinZip Encryption? (2 Drawbacks)
WinZip files are very secure, but it’s prudent to discuss the downsides of encrypting files with WinZip.
Well, to be fair, these are general downsides that come with encryption.
There’s a reason most of your devices don’t offer encryption by default. Sometimes, it’s more trouble than it’s really worth.
#1 Losing Data
Here’s one of the primary risks associated with encrypting files.
If you lose your password, then you can’t access the file.
WinZip will protect that data even from you, if you don’t have the password.
So, if you’re thinking of separating files and folders and running each on their own password, remember this risk.
You have to keep track of everything or else you can hurt yourself in your own attempt to keep things secure.
#2 Slowing Things Down
The other major drawback to WinZip is speed.
Encryption in general slows things down.
In order to use a file, you first have to enter a password, and then the computer has to decrypt it for you to do things.
After all of that, it is encrypted all over again. It’s a process.
Doing this for a single small file isn’t a big deal, but entering multiple passwords to work with a group of files can be cumbersome.
On top of that, larger folders take longer for your computer to encrypt and decrypt, so the whole thing can bog down pretty easily if you aren’t careful.