This was buried in the same letter from Fidelity which announced free trades on 5 additional iShares ETFs:
- Manage your and your family’s finances by safely storing, organizing, and accessing digital copies of important financial, legal, and personal documents.
- Share info with the people you trust, only when you choose. www.fidsafe.com
I’ve been using FidSafe for over a year now. I didn’t write about it because it was in beta. I wasn’t sure if it was going to become an official product. Now that Fidelity officially introduced it, albeit quietly in a letter that also announced quite a few other things, I have higher confidence it’s here to stay.
Online Safe Deposit Box
As the blurb from Fidelity describes, I think of FidSafe as an online safe deposit box. In the old days you put your important paper documents in a physical safe deposit box at a bank branch. With paperless statements, downloadable tax forms, and everything going digital, we need a safe deposit box for those digital documents.
Here comes in FidSafe, which serves as your online safe deposit box. You upload your important documents to FidSafe for safekeeping. You can also write and edit notes directly in FidSafe, which is similar to putting notes in Google Doc or Evernote.
The FidSafe service is free. You don’t have to be a Fidelity customer to use it. You get 5GB of storage. That’s plenty for just financial and legal documents.
You register a mobile phone. Every time you log in, you get a one-time code by text message. You have to use both your password and the one-time code to log in.
If you are a Fidelity customer, you can also use your Fidelity login. If you enabled security token on your Fidelity login, it will use the same token.
Folders and Tags
You organize your documents and notes in FidSafe in folders and subfolders. They can also be tagged. For example if you organize your tax documents into folders by year and you tag your W-2’s with a “W-2” tag, browsing by the “W-2” tag will find all your W-2’s in different folders.
Following the safe deposit box metaphor, you explicitly upload documents to FidSafe. You download documents only when you need them. There’s no automatic syncing between FidSafe and a local computer. You don’t want to carry the complete content of your safe deposit box with you all the time. This also prevents accidentally overwriting or deleting a document in FidSafe when the local copy is overwritten or deleted.
FidSafe just released an iPhone app. It’s compatible with iPad but not optimized for it. No Android app yet. They said the app doesn’t store any document on the phone. I take it as it’s read-only through a built-in viewer. You can also log in from the browser on your mobile phone or tablet.
You can share specific documents in FidSafe with another FidSafe user. I don’t use it now but I see how sharing can be used with a CPA, attorney, or a family member. You just have to persuade them to also use FidSafe.
You can also designate another FidSafe user to take over your documents and notes after you die. When that designated person presents your death certificate, he or she gains access to your documents and notes.
How safe is it to store sensitive financial and legal documents online in the cloud? Document uploads and downloads are going over SSL. Fidelity says the documents are encrypted before they are stored to disk. Because Fidelity manages the encryption keys, you will have to trust that Fidelity manages the keys securely.
I feel comfortable enough with letting Fidelity store documents for me securely. You will have to read what Fidelity says about security and make the judgment yourself.
Other Cloud Storage Services
Can you do the same with another cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox, or Box? You probably can.
Securing documents during transport via SSL is relatively easy. The critical question is whether the documents are encrypted when they are stored “at rest.” Dropbox and Box say they store files encrypted at rest. I don’t know whether it’s also the case with Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud Drive.
From Dropbox: What does Dropbox do to protect my stuff?
To protect file data in transit, Dropbox uses SSL/TLS for file transfer, creating a secure tunnel protected by 128-bit or higher AES encryption. Dropbox file data is stored in discrete file blocks that are fragmented and encrypted using 256-bit AES.
From Box: Is My Data Encrypted?
Content uploaded to Box – from a single user with a Personal account to our largest Enterprise accounts – is encrypted in transit when sent through Box’s website and Box-created applications, using high-strength TLS encryption. Content is also encrypted at rest by Box using 256-bit AES encryption, and is further protected by an encryption key-wrapping strategy that also utilizes 256-bit AES encryption.
If you don’t sync, you can do the same upload and download with Dropbox or Box. It comes down to whom you trust more to keep your documents safe.
Given that Fidelity is offering the service specifically for sensitive documents and that Dropbox and Box have many other features they need to pay attention to, I personally trust Fidelity. On the other hand, FidSafe is created and run by a small tech arm at Fidelity, whereas Dropbox and Box are large companies dedicated to cloud storage.
Encrypt With Your Own Key?
If you are technically competent you can encrypt your files with your own key before you upload them to a cloud storage service. When you use this type of end-to-end encryption then it doesn’t matter which storage service you use.
In such case you have to make sure you always have your encryption key. If you lose the key, nobody will be able to read the files. You also have to make sure when the files are needed, you still have the necessary software for decrypting them. Both can be a challenge if you have to train a non-technical family member.
How are you storing and securing your sensitive financial and legal documents now? Do you think FidSafe is potentially a good solution? Or do you think it’s a bad idea to store sensitive documents online no matter what, and it’s better to keep the files on a flash drive in a drawer?
[Photo credit: Flickr user -JvL-]
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Sam Seattle says
Wow, great info. Is it wise for me to empty my physical safe deposit box in the bank, and scan them + upload it to FidSafe? I mean, how about not having to have a physical safe deposit box anymore? Will the physical safe deposit box be not necessary/ useful anymore?
Danny MoreBucks says
This is a timely article for me. Thanks for the information. I was just writing about creating a financial blueprint that could pair with a will and life insurance as a method to prepare for the unknown, especially if one spouse handles most of the finances.
I was stuck on how to handle securing usernames and passwords for various financial accounts so that a surviving spouse would have easy access. Without securely storing that document, you would be exposed to potential theft.
The electronic safe deposit box or other encrypted cloud storage is a great solution, especially to give you the flexibility to update a document frequently if needed.
Since you have previously written about Merrill Edge/ B of A advantages, I was surprised you did not list Merrill’s Documents Vault in your article. From the Merrill Edge site:
“Documents Vault is a secure online storage service hosted by SiftSoft. You can use this service to store important documents on the SiftSoft server.
Consider using Documents Vault for:
• Legal documents, such as wills, deeds, estate plans
• Financial statements, such as IRAs, 401(k) and annual tax filings
• Documents you may want to share with a third party, such as your attorney or accountant
Please note: It is your responsibility to protect your password and ensure that only you have access to the documents stored. If possible, we recommend that you protect your documents using the password-protect function for documents stored in Documents Vault”
I have not used the service, because B of A provides me a free safe deposit box at the local branch. I put files on a usb drive and put them in the safe deposit box. A little more work and less convenient, but I am not worried about losing control of my information. It also gets me out for a walk when I need to take an updated usb drive to the local branch.
Harry Sit says
Siftsort, not SiftSoft. Anybody can sign up for Siftsort on their own (2GB free). It’s just another online storage provider. I don’t see two-factor authentication. It uses just user name, password, and challenge questions. I won’t use it.
The typo belongs to Merrill Edge. The info in above post was a cut and paste from their site. After you log into your account, the info is located under the Help & Support tab, then click Store Wills …
Following your comment and my additional comment above, I logged into my Merrill Edge account and activated the Document Vault service. Here is what I found out –
• The uploading of documents and viewing of documents is done from within the Merrill Edge secure site. There is not separate log in for accessing Document Vault. Therefore, the documents have the same log in security as you have for all the other account features , such as security trading, transferring money …
• You can set up user defined folders for managing your files.
• You can encrypt and password protect a file prior to uploading.
• You have 100 MB of space allocated, not the 2 MB you indicated.
• To give others the ability to view your document, you would specify the person as an authorized user for the account.
I also watched a short video introducing Siftsort.com. The interface used on the Merrill Edge site is very simple and does not look anything like the service Siftsort provides directly.
While I probably will not switch from the safety deposit box at my local B of A branch, I thank you for getting me to look into the alternatives available to me. If I were to decide to use an online service, I do not see any problems with the service provided by Merrill Edge. It appears to me that you responded without checking out the actual service that I referenced.
Correction – 2 GB, not 2 MB.
Harry Sit says
I want my safe deposit box separate from my bank or broker. If I leave Merrill Edge I don’t want to lose my documents. If it’s a physical USB drive or paper documents I just take them out from the branch. For electronic files, if I have download one by one it’ll be time consuming. Therefore if I like Siftsort as a provider I would sign up directly. That’s why I didn’t try the Merrill Edge version of it.
I store my encrypted sensitive documents on my Google Drive. There are several apps that will encrypt files that are stored on the cloud. I use one called Viivo, which creates a folder on my PC where all files are automatically encrypted prior to sync’ing with the cloud. So, even if someone hacks into my Google Drive account, she will only be able to access the encrypted files. She must also break the encryption of those files.
The idea of giving someone else online access to my documents is terrifying. The two-factor authentication is somewhat comforting, but it’s not enough for me. I would encourage anyone to think twice about granting someone access to your important documents.
So really, Fidsafe’s only use to me is for when I die. I like the idea that someone can get to all my important documents if he can furnish my death certificate. Therefore, I might use Fidsafe just for this one feature.
Khad Young says
[Disclaimer: I work for AgileBits, makers of the 1Password app, a password manager and secure wallet.]
Longtime reader. First time poster. Love your site, Harry! Thanks for all you do. (One of my favorite posts of yours is still “The Case Against Roth 401(k)”.)
I included my standard disclaimer when I talk about 1Password since I am an employee of AgileBits, but I have been using 1Password to encrypt my documents for years. Everything is end-to-end encrypted (https://support.1password.com/end-to-end-encryption/) which means that one does not rely on the security of the sync service. I sync with Dropbox, but iCloud is also supported. One of the great things about 1Password is that you can actually sync entirely without the cloud. Attach files to any item you create to encrypt them. And you have the option of syncing directly over Wi-Fi — no cloud required. There is also a feature which allows you create multiple vaults, so you can have one that you share with your spouse or children.
There are a lot of different ways 1Password can help in this situation, so it may be something to consider.
One of the huge differentiators is that we do not store your data on our servers. We can’t lose, use, or abuse data we never have. Your data is protected by an encryption-based system (i.e. solid math) rather than an authentication-based system (i.e. trusting someone to act responsibly as a gatekeeper). There is no gatekeeper other than the solid math of encryption, so we don’t face the threats that an authentication-based system faces: https://support.1password.com/authentication-vs-encryption/
Food for thought. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to address them. Otherwise, just keep up the great work. Cheers!
I thought 1password encrypted passwords and notes. Can it also encrypt external files, like pdf files?
Harry Sit says
Dave – I haven’t used 1password, but it sounds like you attach files to a note. “Attach files to any item you create to encrypt them.”
Khad Young says
Hi Dave! Harry is correct. You can attach files to any item you create. Here is the relevant section in the User Guide: https://guides.agilebits.com/1password-mac/5/en/topic/attach-a-file
Wai Yip Tung says
Wells Fargo shutting down vSafe document-storage service
Wells Fargo is shutting down its 3-year-old vSafe document-storage service after it failed to gain traction in the marketplace.
“Wells Fargo is discontinuing vSafe due to low customer interest and adoption,” said Wells spokesman Ruben Pulido. “When the company introduced the vSafe service in 2008, we were addressing a trend that more electronic documents were becoming available and people wanted a way to organize and store electronic information. Now many more options exist.”
Mar 27, 2012, 2:00pm PDT
Harry Sit says
Wells Fargo wanted $5/month if I remember correctly. That was before Dropbox took off. It was only for Wells Fargo customers. If I switch to a different bank I don’t want to lose my safe deposit box. FidSafe is free to anyone, whether you are a Fidelity customer or not.
Free is great. It probably means they use it as a loss leader to get people to become Fidelity customers. But then, and also given the WF outcome, it’s far from certain that it will be sustainable and that they will not shut down.
Is there a convenient way to download everything in one swoop, rather than one by one? If yes, then no big deal if they shut down, as long as they give some advance warning.
Harry Sit says
If they are only using it to retain current Fidelity customers and potentially attract new customers, chances of shutting it down would be less than if they are trying to make money from it and failing to achieve the revenue target. The cost of providing storage is quite low, and it keeps coming down.
You can select multiple files and download with one click. If you have many files spanning multiple pages, you may have to do it once per page. Notes are not downloadable.
Harry, your wrote: “If you are a Fidelity customer, you can also use your Fidelity login. If you enabled security token on your Fidelity login, it will use the same token.”
I created an account but was not given an option to use my Fidelity login. And now that I have the account, there is no option to use my hardware security token I use for Fidelity either. How come?
Harry Sit says
serbeer – It doesn’t know what your Fidelity login is. After logging into FidSafe, link your Fidleity login under Settings (gear icon on the top right). After it’s linked, next time on the login page, use the link “or click here to sign in via Fidelity.com.”
Robert Pescatore says
Do you have to be a member of Fidelity to use fid safe? Can a person use fid safe without being a member of Fidelity?
Harry Sit says
You don’t have to be a Fidelity customer.
Phil Seges says
I have “My Documents” file on my computer also on Fidsafe. Is there a way to automatically have a document revised on Fidsafe when I make a change to the document on “My Documents” on my computer?
Harry Sit says
No. It’s not designed as a file sync’ing service. Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive etc. do that.
– I am unable to find an authoritative/reliable source to determine which documents must be available as originals, and which ones can be produced as digital copies. This may happen years later, so it is a good idea to minimize holding originals of only those that must be produced as originals.
– I am unclear why it is necessary at all to store financial statements in any manner since the brokerage/bank holds account statements online at least for the most recent years.