Tip: Hide sensitive data in Access

Anyone who works extensively with Access knows that it’s weak on security. Nothing Access offers will deter a determined hacker. That’s just a quick warning—if you’re working with top-secret data, Access might not be the database for you.

If your security needs are simple, Access offers a number of easy-to-implement security features. One of my favorites is the password input mask. This pre-defined input mask lets you enter sensitive data when prying eyes are out and about. Instead of displaying the actual characters you enter, the input mask displays an asterisk character (*) for each character you type. To apply this mask to a control, do the following:

  1. With the data entry form in Design view, double-click the control in question to open its properties window. (This works only with Text and Date fields.)
  2. Click the Input Mask property field to display that property’s Build button (the button with three dots to the right). Alternatively, simply click to the right of the property field.
  3. Click the Builder button to launch the Input Mask Wizard.
  4. Select Password in the Input Mask Wizard dialog box and then click Finish.

Alternatively, you can take the easy route and simply enter the text "password" into the Input Mask field. (Don’t enter the quotes.)

When you enter data, you don’t have to worry about who might be standing nearby. In addition, the control displays asterisks instead of existing data. It’s a simple technique and anyone who knows what they’re doing could reset the mask if they have access to your system, but it’s a good way to pull a veil over your work.

The one drawback is that you can't confirm your entry. If you make a typo, there's no way for you to know with a quick visual check.

What Office security features serve you well?