A New Way to Secure Files on Dropbox

Lots of lawyers are using Dropbox to store files online and access them from multiple devices. According to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, it is not only the most popular cloud storage platform among lawyers, but also the most popular cloud-based application of any kind among lawyers. Even so, many lawyers remain concerned about the security of the files they load into Dropbox.

A new application released this week, Safebox, enables you to encrypt your files before you send them to Dropbox, so that they do not leave your computer until they are protected with what the company promises is military-grade security. (It uses AES-256, the advanced encryption standard with a 256-bit key.) Once the encrypted file is added to Dropbox, you can retrieve it from any other computer you use, provided you have also installed Safebox there.

The way it works is simple. When you download and install Safebox, it creates a Safebox folder on your computer, similar to the folder that Dropbox adds to your computer. To encrypt a file and send it to Dropbox, simply move the file to the Safebox folder. Safebox encrypts it and sends it to Dropbox. It even encrypts the file name as it appears on Dropbox.

To retrieve the file on another computer, you will have to install Safebox there and enter the password you created during the initial set-up. As it did on the first computer, Safebox will add a folder. Any file you send to Dropbox using Safebox will be synchronized across all your Safebox folders on all the computers where you install it. The file appears in the folder unencrypted and ready to use.

Note that there are several limitations in how you can use Safebox:

  • You cannot access the encrypted files directly on Dropbox. Although Safebox adds a folder to Dropbox where the encrypted files are stored, you can only access the unencrypted files through the desktop client.
  • You cannot use Safebox to share encrypted files with others. The developers tell me that sharing is “high on our planned feature list.”
  • You cannot access Safebox files from mobile devices. Here again, the developers tell me that this is a feature they are considering.

Safebox works with other cloud-storage platforms as well, according to its developers. They have tested it with Google Drive, Insync and Wuala, and say it should work with any service that uses a client-side synchronization folder.

For a limited period following this week’s launch, Safebox is being sold for $9.99. At some point, the price will increase to $19.99. Note that this is a one-time purchase, not a monthly subscription, and the single license can be used across all your computers.

You can also try Safebox for free in a limited trial mode. The trial mode limits you to securing no more than five files.

There are several other applications available that encrypt files before sending them to Dropbox or other cloud-storage platforms. You can find several with a quick Google search. At least some of them profess to include mobile access, but to mixed reviews. For now, Safebox is an application worth considering and certainly worth watching as its development continues.