22 Aug 2019

How To Share Files Anonymously And Securely: Linux Alternatives to Google Drive

The ability to share files regardless of the physical distance and almost instantaneously is one of the greatest characteristics of the Internet. With 4.3 billion Internet users at the beginning of 2019, the amount of data transferred over the Web is almost unimaginable.

But not all file-sharing services are created equal. In the era where personal data is the most valuable currency we can spend, it is important to ensure we send files over the Internet in a secure and anonymous way.

Read to find out why mainstream file-sharing services are not your best bet and how to pick an alternative solution.

Can you trust the big file share services?

The most popular file-sharing services are part of cloud storage solutions, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Yandex.Disk or Dropbox. It''s easy to see why so many people use them - their files are likely already stored on the cloud and file sharing is easy and intuitive. But while these products might be good enough to store lecture notes or a grocery shopping list, they're not secure enough for more sensitive data.

For starters, you don't know where your cloud-stored files are physically stored. One of the main dangers of cloud storage is multi-tenancy, meaning that multiple users share the same computing resources, including memory and storage. Multi-tenancy comes with a risk of private data accidentally leaking to other "tenants" and this risk only increases as files are shared with more users over the cloud.

Secondly, on popular cloud services, the customer is often not the only owner of their data. If the cloud provider states in their terms and conditions that they reserve the rights to any data stored on their cloud, that enables them to search and mine data for additional revenue (such as from advertising). In the long run, those companies selling users data to the highest bidder is not unimaginable.

Finally, using popular providers means relying on them to secure and protect your files. And that's clearly never a good idea, as the 2016 Dropbox hack clearly proved, with over 60 millions accounts compromised.

Alternative file sharing solutions for Linux

Let's face it: on the Internet, just like in life, if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. And that means upgrading from cookie-cutter solutions to file sharing alternatives out of the mainstream. Some of them might require a bit more work than Google Drive, but then again, it's your data privacy and security that are on the line.

Here are some of the more secure and anonymous file sharing solutions for your Linux.


Onionshare is an open-source tool to share files anonymously and securely. Developed by Micah Lee, a technologist and a founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation, Onionshare is on a mission to share files without giving the access or ownership to middlemen like Google.

With upgraded Onionshare 2 that allows you to both send and receive files, now is a good time to start using this tool.

To use Onionshare, you need to have the private Tor Browser running in the background. Sharing files through the program is very easy. Simply drag a file or folder to upload it to OnionShare and click the "start sharing" button. Once the file is uploaded, Onionshare will generate a URL which you need to share with the person you are sending the file to.

For extra safety, keep the automatically enabled "stop sharing automatically" function on. It means that only the first person that downloads the files can access them, after that they become unavailable

Choose LibreOffice for sensitive files

If you have extra sensitive files, you can make them even more secure with native LibreOffice functionalities.

To secure your document with a password, simply go to "Save file" as always and scroll down. You'll see three checkboxes, one of them saying "Save with password". Tick that box and after processing to "Save", you’ll be prompted to choose your password.

Now whenever anyone tries to open this document, they will need to input the password. That means that even if the file is intercepted during sharing, it's got an extra layer of protection.

Encrypt your files with gpg

What to do if your sensitive file is not a text document that can be encrypted with LibreOffice? You can always turn to the tried and trusted gpg command. Gpg is built into almost every Linux device so likely you won't have to install anything. It can be used to encrypt files or folders, which is especially useful for sending sensitive files over the Internet.
To encrypt the file, open a terminal window and change to the ~/Documents directory. Encrypt the file with the command gpg-c important.docx and enter your unique password. You'll be asked to type in the password again to verify, then press Enter, and you're all set.

If the receiver of the file is a Linux user, they can decrypt it with the password you used for encryption. Otherwise, Windows users can use the encryption program Gpg4win.

Bottom line

There are many alternatives to mainstream file-sharing services. Make sure to always encrypt sensitive files before you transfer them and use programs like Onionshare to share data anonymously.

In the time where so much of our data is inevitably shared with companies, advertisers, and governments, there's no need to add our private files to the list. Circumventing the data-control of big tech companies takes a little bit more effort but it's worth it in the long run.

Writer's biography:
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cybersecurity and privacy tools.

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