Are Your Forms Secure?

Written by Formstack on March 17, 2009

Posted in Form Hacks, IT + Security

If you’re using your a Formstack form to accept sensitive data, such as credit cards or social security numbers, you must enable all of our security features in order to protect your data. These security features are not enabled by default and are only available on paid plans at the Professional level or higher. The security features available to you are SSL, PGP and data encryption.

SSL

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol for providing secure communications on the Internet. SSL provides for the authentication and encryption of traffic between your browser and Internet servers. According to our terms of service, you MUST enable SSL if you are collecting sensitive data on your form.

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To enable SSL on your form:

  1. Click on the Settings tab in the form builder.
  2. Scroll down to Security.
  3. Click Yes next to the Use SSL option.

If you do not see the SSL option, your account plan does not give you access to those features.

Data Encryption

You MUST enable data encryption if you are collecting sensitive data such as credit card or social security numbers and storing them in your Formstack database. If you do not do this, you are violating our terms of service and your data is NOT secure.

When you setup your form to save data for later downloading and viewing, you can set a password to encrypt the data when stored in the Formstack database. When you set a password, public and private keys are generated and stored with your form. The public key is used to encrypt the data when saved in the database. Your password encrypts the private key, which will be used to decrypt the data. Your encryption password is not saved on the server in plain text, so it’s not possible for anyone to decrypt the information without knowing your encryption password.

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To enable data encryption on your form:

  1. Click on the Settings tab for your form.
  2. Scroll down to Security.
  3. Enter a new password in the Encrypt Saved Data field. You will have to verify the password to continue.

If you do not see the Data Encryption option, your account plan does not give you access to those features.

Note: You do not need to enable data encryption if you are not saving collected data in the database.

WARNING: It is important that you memorize or store this password in a safe place. If you lose this password, we will not be able to retrieve your data, which will be irrevocably lost.

PGP

You MUST use PGP if you are e-mailing sensitive data to yourself, such as credit card or social security numbers. Regular e-mail is not a secure method for sending sensitive data and violates our terms of service.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is a program for encrypting and decrypting email based on the OpenPGP standard.

PGP support is available in many popular email applications through 3rd-party PGP programs. Here are some of the free 3rd-party plugins available for widely used email applications:

  1. Microsoft Outlook – GPGol
  2. Mozilla Thunderbird – Enigmail
  3. Apple Mail – MacGPG

If you can’t find a plugin for your email program, you can use Gpg4win, a light-weight program for Microsoft Windows, by copying the encrypted email from any email client and pasting it into WinPT for decryption. A more complete list of free PGP programs for different clients can be found here and here. Commercial PGP programs can be purchased at PGP.com.

If you want to use PGP in a hurry or don’t want to mess with installing additional software, the easiest thing to do is to setup a free email account at Hushmail.

securitypgp

To enable PGP for your form and upload your PGP public key:

  1. Click on the Settings tab for your form.
  2. Scroll down to Security.
  3. Copy and paste your public key into the Public PGP Key field.

If you do not see the PGP field, your account plan does not give you access to those features.

Note: You do not need to enable PGP if you are not sending collected data to any email recipients, or are only sending a link to the saved data.

Alternative to Using PGP

Setting up PGP is a complicated process. An easy alternative would be to just not e-mail sensitive data to yourself. Instead, create a custom notification e-mail that includes all of the submitted data EXCEPT for the sensitive data such as credit card numbers. Then, log into your Formstack account to view this data when you receive submissions.

If you enable all of the security features listed here, you can rest assured that your form data is secure. If you are collecting sensitive data and have not enabled these security features yet, please do so immediately.  If you get stuck, you can always contact our support staff.