Consider the following scenario:

I use a cloud service that is not considered secure (meaning no encryption whatsoever) i.e. Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive etc. In my account I have a .zip or .7z file that is encrypted using a very strong password. For the sake of argument, let's say that I used PeaZip to create this file.

My question is: How safe should I feel? In the case where my account is breached, should I feel safe that this particular file will not be breached (baring in mind that the password is indeed unique and very very strong). Is this kind of measure acceptable if one cares about his/her privacy?

  • This is generally the point of using encrypted zip files - they are designed so you can pass them around over insecure channels, or leave them in insecure locations. Assuming no flaws in the encryption, and no daft mistakes like putting the password in a text file in the same place, the only way to get access to the file contents should be brute force. Zip encryption by default allows access to the filenames, though, which can be a problem in some cases.
    – Matthew
    Jun 7, 2016 at 15:20
  • "Zip encryption by default allows access to the filenames". This can be solved by using a zip inside a zip :) Right? paranoid look
    – Aventinus
    Jun 7, 2016 at 15:33
  • @Aventinus in what context ? "zip file with strong password" for your holiday photos... sure, why not. "zip file with strong password" for storing confidential company information (or worse, PCI-DSS or other regulated data) ... no way ! Jun 7, 2016 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


Privacy and confidentiality are different things...

A Zip file, even encrypted, is still there, and onlookers may observe not only the archive presence, name and size, but also the individual names and sizes of files within the archive, because these are not encrypted.

Traditional Zip encryption is weak and can be broken within a few minutes, regardless of how strong the password is — a good example of why homemade ciphers are an abomination. Some Zip-aware software can do better (e.g. with AES), but this may limit interoperability. For instance, Windows's explorer cannot open Zip archives encrypted with something else than the weak traditional stream cipher.

The normal, pervasive defence system of most people is to be utterly boring, thus making it unlikely that any potential attacker would bother trying to unlock their secrets. Yet, if you believe that an hostile adversary may actually try to learn your data and has access to your files stored in your cloud service, then you might consider making an unencrypted Zip archive, then encrypting that archive as a whole with GnuPG. GnuPG, among its many options, can do password-based symmetric encryption (with the -c command-line option) and does it reasonably well. The presence and size of the archive will still be known to eavesdroppers, as well as the archive file name, but archive contents, including individual file names and sizes, will be protected.


Dropbox and others have encryption by default, but if your account has-been compromised, you lost one layer of security.

Are you familiarized with the concept "Security in depth"? It Means That You need to add layer after layer (like an onion) to feel more secure.

Maybe you need is a very strong password to secure your Dropbox account. Then you need to encrypt your files .7z With another very strong key. Then you need to encrypt the encrypted files too, and do not tell to anyone that you have this account or these files on that cloud. And so on... layer after layer.

Like always, it depends of how paranoid you woke up today.

  • IMO, the dropbox admins are the people you are trying to protect your data from, so any encryption offered by dropbox is worth roughly nothing. Jun 7, 2016 at 15:28
  • "it depends of how paranoid you woke up today". Exactly. I feel very paranoid today but imo the key is to balance security with practicability. Security in depth sounds awesome at first and then not so much when you need a certain file twice or thrice a day.
    – Aventinus
    Jun 7, 2016 at 15:32
  • 1
    Yeah, you need to find out the balance between paranoid and practicability. If you are too paranoid, you don't trust in your browser (Chrome in special), you don't trust in your cloud provider, and you don't trust in your ISP neither in your WiFi connection (maybe it has been hacked) . So, where to put the border line? It depends in how value have your data. Jun 7, 2016 at 15:39
  • Dropbox uses deduplication techniques, so it cannot really securely encrypt data at rest. What it does is standard link/transport encryption via HTTPS/TLS. Dropbox can and did access users' files. All big US companies already snitch on users if their files match hashes of child porn.
    – Arc
    Jun 11, 2016 at 4:07
  • Yeah, but the content still encrypted for anyone outside Dropbox. Jun 11, 2016 at 5:21

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