I have been offered a job at a large international organisation and their HR "on-boarding" process requires that I email them quite a few sensitive documents as PDF attachments:

  • Passport scan
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Degree certificate copies
  • Completed pre-employment medical check form

And so on.

I would rather not send that to them via unencrypted email for obvious reasons, but they do not seem to understand why and have not offered an alternative. All the emails from "central" HR come from a do-not-reply address, so I have no obvious point of contact higher up the HR chain, beyond the head of the department I will be joining. I deal in turn with a medical sub-department, pre-employment documents sub-department, etc. The individuals in these sub-departments are not IT professionals.

What can I suggest as an alternative, secure method to transfer the documents they need and how can I persuade them to accept it?

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    How far away from the company are you? I'm assuming you are far enough away taht just hand delivering them won't work. You could mail a CD or zip all the scanned documents into a single file and encrypt it with a password, then ask them to call you so you can give them the password. – mikeazo May 16 '17 at 11:52
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    How are you supposed to email them if all they provide you with is a donotreply email address? – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 16 '17 at 14:35
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    I'm curious, if you need to send these via unsecured email why you haven't used that email to contact them? It seems you answers for contacting them is right in front of you. – Andieisme May 16 '17 at 16:30
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    I would be concerned sending these documents to a faceless organisation. Do you have real proof that the business exists? because this sounds like a scam. Those are some pretty high level papers you're being asked to hand over, and why? Honestly check this is not a scam. Then contact the HR if you think everything is fine, and tell them you will send the copies via courier, (tracked and signed) so you know exactly who took possession of this information. And straight up say you will not send these via email if it makes you uncomfortable. This is not unreasonable, and is a wise precaution. – TolMera May 17 '17 at 16:01
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    @TolMera. Thank you: the organisation definitely exists and my problem is one of dealing with the bureaucracy of a large system: the person in the subdepartment of HR dealing with this is simply following their procedures. I have no other point of contact higher up, and they refer internally to their IT people who don't want to help. Courier might be the best option if they'll go for it. – lauren96 May 18 '17 at 12:38

What can I suggest as an alternative, secure method to transfer the documents they need and how can I persuade them to accept it?

In your case, I would send the documents next day (or 2 day) air via UPS or Fed-Ex. This way you get proof of delivery and your information is not splattered all over the web. An encrypted zip file can be hacked if the user is not careful in the method selected to encrypt the file.

  • And they will probably be annoyed that they now have to deal with paper even thought they need the documents electronically anyway. – ThiefMaster May 16 '17 at 22:05
  • @ThiefMaster Probably so, but an HR department of any size should have a secure way for new hires/potential candidates to upload required documentation into their HR system. – Mister Positive May 16 '17 at 22:09
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    [citation needed] for the easily hacked part. – meriton - on strike May 17 '17 at 0:04
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    I asked for a citation, not an exploit ... and forgive me if "do a bit of research" does not convince me, because my research seems to disagree with yours. Are you really claiming AES-256 is easily hacked? If somebody can do that, they can bloody well bribe or trick a UPS courier :D – meriton - on strike May 17 '17 at 1:32
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    @meriton I updated my answer after getting mad, then thinking about it, and going your way a bit. :-P – Mister Positive May 17 '17 at 1:43

Encrypt the PDFs and have them contact you for the password. Never email or electronically send them the password. Do not send in zip file format as many email systems will filter those emails and they will never be received.

The other alternative for you is to email one(or more) of the addresses provided and explain your concern with sending the files electronically. They should be able to provide you with any alternatives they find acceptable.


"Demand" is probably a poor approach for a job that you don't even have yet.

There are several secure file transfer services available online - just do a Google search.

You could put your documents in a folder on Google Drive, and share the folder with a specific e-mail address. The endpoints (all in a browser) are secure.

Whatever the case, it seems that the company probably isn't going to spend a dime trying to help you, because apparently you're the only party concerned with the security of these documents. You may have to come out pocket to accomplish your goal. Given that - decide if it's really that important to you, and if it is, maybe this is the wrong company to be working for.

  • I think that not having my personal data transmitted insecurely across the internet is a right and therefore something I'm free to demand from the administrators and secretarial staff I will end up working with towards the same goals. The Google Drive approach is probably the best advice I've had here, and thanks for that. – lauren96 May 16 '17 at 14:51
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    @Lauren96, and their response to your "demand" could be to rescind the offer. Not likely, but better to start off on the right foot. – cdkMoose May 16 '17 at 16:39
  • @cdkMoose My sentiments, exactly! – Xavier J May 16 '17 at 20:17
  • You can demand something without actually using the word 'demand' when you make the demand. The word is chosen for the question.. Maybe 'insist' is the right one here. Ask, but insist if you get push-back. – Brandin May 18 '17 at 13:06

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