There are numerous, well-publicized incidents of data loss and data breach associated with the use of spreadsheets. This perpetual information security risk has led many to call for doing away with spreadsheets entirely. But before you go disrupting any critical business processes that aren’t really broken, consider taking advantage of a new Excel add-in that is available at no cost via Microsoft AppSource.

Almost every day there is another news story about the adverse impact of a spreadsheet error or data loss due to an Excel file being found outside of the company. In December of 2018, BlackRock inadvertently displayed spreadsheets containing thousands of names and email addresses of financial advisors who deal in their ETFs. In March of 2019, it was reported that the U.S. Army had accidentally emailed a spreadsheet containing the names and social security numbers of over 4,000 enlisted personnel. Furthermore, with the growing use of Office 365 and other collaboration platforms like Slack or Box, more spreadsheets are being shared with more and more people. So if you do need to share access, or actually send a spreadsheet outside of your company, how can you protect the sensitive information? How can you take steps to ensure you don’t violate HIPAA or GDPR?

The answer is simple - utilize Cell ConcealTM. This free tool was developed by CIMCON and is distributed through AppSource. It is accessible from the toolbar within Excel, so it's easy to use. Cell Conceal enables you to very quickly and professionally redact any spreadsheet cells that you don’t want another person to read. For any sensitive information that you need to share, but want to be sure doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, encryption is the right choice. Cell Conceal enables any end user to quickly and easily apply either of these methods.

  1. Redaction

    Redaction is the censoring or obscuring of text for legal, regulatory or information security reasons. In the context of Excel, it is useful when the author/owner of a spreadsheet wants to share the file with many other different readers, but there are certain cells that none of the readers should be able to see. While it is possible to manually redact anything in a cell, that process is very time-consuming. Cell Conceal enables the redaction to be done quickly, easily and permanently.

  2. Encryption

    The average Excel user doesn’t understand the mechanics of encryption and it’s probably fair to say they don’t care to learn how. However, they do want to protect sensitive data and information. The use case here revolves around sharing a file.  The recipient needs to be able to generally see/use the file, but the file owner doesn't want anyone  (other than designated individuals) to be able to see/edit specific cells. For example, if a medical professional was emailing personal health information (PHI) to a doctor’s office, and it was sent to the wrong person, the medical professional shouldn’t have to worry about a HIPAA violation. Likewise, under GDPR almost any personal information (PI), including common email addresses must be protected. 

    Encryption is a surefire way to ensure that if the data gets into the wrong hands, either inadvertently or deliberately, it will remain secure. Unlike redaction, encryption is reversible i.e. with the correct password, the encrypted cells can be decrypted and then read/edited normally. There is no limit to the number of times a cell or range of cells can be encrypted or decrypted.

  3. Easy, no-cost access via Microsoft’s AppSource

    Cell Conceal is not another stand-alone application. The user experience is integral to the spreadsheet and appears as a single button within the Excel toolbar. In addition, it works in both the online and offline versions of Excel so your sensitive information is always protected no matter where it is stored or how it is shared.

In summary, even though the vast majority of data loss/breach associated with Excel is inadvertent… that doesn’t make it any less damaging. Ensuring information security is always a top priority and companies spend millions to protect themselves. Cell Conceal provides a simple, no-cost way for you to protect yourself and the information you are responsible for.