Image: iStockphoto/lukutin77, Dropbox

Those of you who use Dropbox to store files online may be concerned about the security of your cloud-based content. For sensitive files that need an extra layer of protection, Dropbox now offers a vault. With Dropbox Vault, you create a PIN as a second level of security beyond Dropbox’s built-in file encryption.

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You can move files in and out of the vault based on which ones you need to protect. You can also share the files in your vault just as you can with files in a regular folder. Dropbox Vault is accessible to users with a paid Plus or Professional plan.

First, browse to the Dropbox Vault page and sign in with your account. The first time you access the page, Dropbox will offer to suggest files that you might want to add to the vault. These suggestions are based on potentially sensitive keywords such as “tax return” or “passport.” Click the Suggest files button to try this; otherwise click the Skip button to proceed on your own (Figure A).

Figure A

At the next step, enter a six-digit pin to secure the files in the vault. Click the button to Set PIN (Figure B).

Figure B

Next, you need to select the files you wish to place in your new virtual vault. Click the Add button and you can add files or folders from your computer or files from Dropbox (Figure C).

Figure C

For files or folders from your computer, simply select the ones you wish to add, and they’re automatically uploaded into the vault. For files from Dropbox, select the ones to add and then click the Choose button (Figure D).

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Figure D

At the final setup step, you can opt to give someone else access to your vault in the event of an emergency. Click the link to Add Trusted Contact. Enter the person’s email address and a note. Click Send (Figure E).

Figure E

Go to the location for All Files and then click the vault to see the files within it. By default, the vault is automatically locked if there’s no activity for 20 minutes. You can also lock the vault manually. To do this, open the vault and click the Lock icon at the top (Figure F).

Figure F

The next time you try to open the vault, you’ll be prompted to enter your PIN (Figure G).

Figure G

Any files or folders you add to your vault are protected by the PIN. You can share files in the vault without sharing the PIN. But your recipients can only view the files and not edit them. To share a file stored in the vault, check the file and then click the Share button. Choose your recipient from a contact list or by typing their email address and then click the button to Share File (Figure H).

Figure H

Finally, you can change your PIN if necessary. To do this, open your vault and click the link for Settings. Under PIN protection, click the Change link. Enter the current PIN and then the new PIN and click the Change PIN button (Figure I).

Figure I