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Have you ever wondered if your online documents are secure? Even if you save them in your Google Drive, adding extra protection to those with more sensitive data is always a good idea. To address this issue, we recently spoke about how you can lock data in Google Sheets by giving or restricting editing permissions to other users. However, you may also deal with sensitive or confidential information that you wish to restrict from users outside your team. With the help of the third-party tool Skipser, you can password-protect your Google Sheets to keep your documents extra safe.

This article will first show you how to secure data on your Google Sheet by setting up a password; it will then describe the necessary steps to encrypt and decrypt the data. Lastly, it will stress the importance of updating your password to ensure that you fully control the data shared on your Google Drive.

How to password-protect a Google Sheet?

Google Sheets does not provide any feature to protect or encrypt your data within the spreadsheet, and the only available security measure is your Google account email ID and password. Considering that it is too risky to rely only on this, we have found a solution that will allow you to create that secure and encrypted system for yourself and your business.

Let’s begin:

  1. 1. Go to Skipser.com and perform a site search for “password protect”.
Site search in Skipser com
  1. 2. Then, scroll down to find the “How to Password Protect” article.

How to password protect on Skipser com
  1. 3. You can also directly download it from here, save it on your Google Drive, rename it as you wish, and enter the data you want to protect or set a password to*. Make sure you enter the data from the third row onwards.
Rename and enter data on Google Sheet

*As the image above shows, the Protect File tab is already visible, so you can skip the following steps and move on to the next section on How to encrypt your data in a Google Sheet. If you do not see the Protect File tab, keep reading.

  1. 4. Navigate to the “Tools” tab and click on “Script Editor.” A script should come out in a new window or tab.
Open Script Editor in Tools tab
  1. 5. In this new window, select “File,” then “Manage Versions,” and finally "Save a new version.” You can leave all fields blank, and a new row for version 1 will show up. You simply need to click on "OK.”
  2. 6. Now select "Publish” and “Deploy as webapp.” Then, click on the "Deploy" button.
  3. 7. You should see a confirmation indicating that the app has been deployed as a web app.
  4. 8. You should now be able to see a “Protect File” tab in your Google Sheet. Click on this tab and then click on “Initialize.”
Protect File Initialize
  1. 9. Finally, click “Continue” to give permissions to run the script attached.
Authorization Required

Your Google Sheet is now ready to keep storing data safely and securely - a one-time procedure to not have to worry about doing it again. Simply don’t forget to keep the first two rows intact!

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How to encrypt your data in Google Sheets?

Now that your Google Sheet is password-protected, here is how to encrypt the data so that only users that have the password can view the information:

  1. 1. Click on the “Protect File” tab and then “Encrypt File.”
Encrypt file
  1. 2. Create a password that you will share with your selected users.
Create password
  1. 3. As you can see, this has encrypted the data by scrambling the contents within each cell. Nobody will read it unless they have the password* you created.
Encrypted data

*The password set up in this section is NOT your Google account password - it is the password to be used for all further encrypt/decrypt requests.

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How to change the password of an encrypted file?

We often share passwords with colleagues or team members that either cease to work on the same project or the nature of the data we share becomes highly confidential. Don’t worry, similar to how it was created, users can easily change the password of the encrypted file:

  1. 1. Go to the “Protect File” tab and click on “Change Password.”
Change password on encrypted Google Sheet
  1. 2. Enter the old password and try to make the new one as different as possible.
Change password on encrypted Google Sheets

Like any other online platform that stores sensitive data, it’s good to update your password frequently. However, this can become a cumbersome task for which we often end up creating passwords that are too simple or common so that they’re easy to remember.

In the era of digital attacks and the need for cybersecurity, here are a few points by Google Account Help to take into consideration when creating a password - whether you are a single user or an administrator in charge of a team:

  1. 1. Make your password unique.
  2. 2. Make your password longer but memorable.
  3. 3. Avoid using personal information or common words.
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How to decrypt your data in Google Sheets?

We have already seen how you can encrypt your Google Sheet; however, you may want to read the information or delegate a task that would require sharing the password so it can be decrypted.

Here is how:

  1. 1. Go to the "Protect File” tab and select “Decrypt File.” Once again, you will be asked to enter the password.
Decrypt Google Sheets
Decrypt Google Sheets Enter Password
  1. 2. Once entered, you can now read the cell contents and edit as you wish*.
Decrypt Google Sheets Data visible

*Make sure you don't edit or make changes to the encrypted document. If you do so, the decryption process won't retrieve the original content. Remember that the attached script is your local copy and runs entirely within your Google account. Nobody else has access to anything, including the password you set.

How to access an encrypted sheet on your phone?

The encryption and decryption of data in Google Sheets work well when using a computer device. However, most of us work on our phones, especially when it comes to urgent or last-minute tasks. If you are using your phone right now, you won’t get the "Protect File" tab on your spreadsheet. Therefore, follow these steps if you want to access the encrypted sheet on your phone:

  1. 1. Click on the encrypt/decrypt URL in the first row, as shown in step 3 of this article.
  2. 2. The URL is created and added once you click on “Deploy,” as shown in Step 6 of the first section of this article.
  3. 3. Once the URL fully loads, a window is shown to enter your password to encrypt or decrypt the document.
  4. 4. Once encrypted/decrypted, you can select "Go back." A clickable link will now show, which will load the encrypted/decrypted Google Sheet.

How to protect Google Sheets data with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

Although the sensitive or confidential information we usually share is not restricted to Google Sheets, the online platform is definitely a place where most of us store personal and professional documents including sensitive information such as passwords, phone numbers, bank account details, payment details, etc.

Google currently offers many tools to help businesses work online as a team; however, this also means that sensitive or confidential information stored in the cloud is growing exponentially. As we expressed initially, the key question is, are Google Sheets secure? In theory, yes. In practice, no. Nowadays, your Google account password is not enough to guarantee your Google Sheets security.

This article has shown how you can password protect a Google Sheet in a few simple and easy steps, encrypt and decrypt a Google Sheet, and change the password at any time from any device, both computer and mobile phone.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Dec 29 2021, Updated Jun 21 2022