This is regarding security for GIS Data (in Esri & open source) (Esri shapefiles, AutoCAD files etc.)

Does anyone know how to assign a password to or encrypt shapefiles OR CAD Data?

I have found an ESRI script on this site but I think its too old..So if anyone knows such information/tool then please let me know.


The Shapefile format is an old format which has no scope for a password or encryption. So all the solutions that you will find, will be built on top of the existing standards, and hence will not be standard across various applications. A solution that will work with ArcGIS will not work with Qgis and so on.

Having said that, I have seen a few low-tech ways of solving this problem such as:

  • Windows Domain Account based folder permissions.
  • Storing your files in a Trucrypt partition.
  • Transporting the files in a password protected Zipped file and so on.

Having said that, I wouldn't suggest any of them. If you have data to protect, you should use standard secure ways of accessing and storing the data, like in a geodatabase (be it PostGIS or ArcSDE). Keep in mind, that once you have given someone even read only access to a geodatabase, It is easy enough for that person to export the data to another format and use it howsoever (s)he might want to use it.

The Only true secure way, is to not give even read access to the data, and only provide processed data like a WMS service or a printed map.

  • ...thanks for your detail explanation..You resolved my question.. thanks a lot : ) – Sunil Dec 10 '12 at 6:12

There are some newer encrypted esri formats - these include file geodatabase, and .SDC formats.

You have to work with esri to get access to these formats and tools to create them. Access has been limited to vendors like Nokia and TomTom. I was able to get access to .SDC format conversion tools by attending an onsite training.

These formats are used to restrict access to the data by geographic areas or GIS functionality (map display, geocode, routing etc).

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