Information security


Transferring or transporting protectively-marked information

Know how to keep protected information secure when you transfer or transport it or receive it.

These requirements apply to all official information (with or without security classifications)

Follow these requirements to ensure your agency complies with the Protective Security Requirements for information security.

Security measures and policy for transferring protected information

The security measures required to protect protectively-marked information during physical transfer depend on:

  • the protective markings
  • where it is going from and to
  • the method used.

The intended recipient must have the appropriate ‘need-to-know’ and the required level of security clearance before the information is transferred.

Your agency should develop a policy based on the minimum measures, as well as policy for information and material too large for the ‘double barrier’ principle. 

Preparing protectively-marked information for transfer

You must use security measures to protect marked information when it is in transit.

Measures can include:

  • using NZSIS-approved briefcases, satchels, seals, pouches, or transit bags
  • using special enveloping procedures
  • transferring information by hand between people with the appropriate security clearance or by authorised messengers.

Security methods can be used together to create tighter security. For instance:

  • using an inner and outer envelope — double enveloping
  • combining an inner barrier with an outer barrier — the ‘double barrier’ method.

Whichever combination you use, the inner barrier must be tamper evident and the outer barrier must obscure the nature of the information being transferred.

Addressing information correctly

Address protectively-marked information to a specific position, appointment, or named individual. 

Make sure the addressee and alternative have the required level of security clearance. 

Specify the intended recipient’s name, designation, and full street address. 

Do not send protectively-marked information to a post office box.

For TOP SECRET information, you must provide an alternative individual or appointment. You should also do that for protectively-marked information classified below TOP SECRET.

Transferring information within your office

You can transfer protectively-marked information within a discrete office environment without any coverings, such as envelopes, when:

  • the information is transferred directly between staff who have the appropriate level of clearance to access it and the need-to-know
  • there is no opportunity for unauthorised people to view the information.

If there is a risk that an unauthorised person could view the information, it must be covered.

Double enveloping

You must use a double barrier to transfer protectively-marked documents securely outside your agency.

Double enveloping is used to help protect the need-to-know principle when you transfer protectively-marked information and ACCOUNTABLE MATERIAL.

Double enveloping provides evidence of tampering. As the name suggests, double enveloping consists of placing protectively marked information in two sealed envelopes.

Your agency must use double enveloping for all information classified as CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET and TOP SECRET when delivering by hand or using an NZSIS-endorsed courier.

Use double enveloping at your discretion for information classified as IN CONFIDENCE, SENSITIVE or RESTRICTED. Use your security risk management plan to inform decisions.

SENSITIVE and RESTRICTED information or material must be double enveloped when it is sent by post or commercial courier.

Including receipts

Double enveloping must be used along with receipts that:

  • are enclosed with the protectively-marked documents
  • identify the date and time of dispatch, and the dispatching officer’s name
  • have a unique identifying number.

Getting the outer envelope right

Use the outer envelope in a similar way to normal mail envelopes. It gives protection to the inner envelope.

The outer envelope must not:

  • display the protective markings of the document
  • use tamper-evident seals.

The outer envelope must display:

  • the physical address of the recipient
  • a distinct reference number (this may be the receipt number if the envelopes are not individually numbered)
  • the name and signature of the dispatching officer
  • the date of dispatch.

Getting the inner envelope right

The inner envelope is used to give evidence of tampering.

The inner envelope should:

  • display the protective markings at the top and bottom, and front and back of the envelope
  • be sealed with an NZSIS-approved tamper-evident seal in such a way that covert entry to the envelope is countered.

Using other envelope methods

Some single-use envelopes have been approved by the NZSIS for use:

  • as an inner envelope
  • as an outer envelope when used to enclose several inner envelopes where initial delivery will be to a registry or similar.

Multi-use satchels may also be used in some circumstances. Please contact the Protective Security Requirements team for details, as the Approved Products List is classified information.

Methods for transferring protected information

Your agency should choose the transfer method that best achieves the safe transfer of protected information.

Using the ‘Safe hand’ method

The ‘safe hand’ method is when information with protective markings is despatched to the addressee in the care of an authorised officer, or succession of authorised officers, who are responsible for its carriage and safekeeping.

At each handover, a receipt is obtained showing at least:

  • the identification number of the package
  • the time and date of the handover
  • the name and signature of the recipient.

The purpose of sending an article using safe hand is to establish an audit trail that allows the sender to receive confirmation that the addressee received the information.

To send information using the safe hand method:

  • enclose it in a double barrier (double envelope it)
  • give it a unique identification number (usually the receipt number)
  • place a two-part receipt in the inner envelope with the information — the addressee keeps one portion and signs it and then returns the other portion to the sender
  • ensure some form of record or receipt system accompanies the package, so that every handover is documented
  • transport the information in an approved briefcase or mailbag
  • ensure the information is not be left unattended, except when placed in the cargo compartment of an aircraft. 

Using commercial couriers or postal services

Your agency can send material classified up to and including RESTRICTED by post or commercial courier within New Zealand.

Items classified SENSITIVE or RESTRICTED must be double enveloped.

When no authorised messenger or safe-hand courier service exists, your agency can allow material classified CONFIDENTIAL to be carried by signature-required commercial courier or registered post within New Zealand. This method can be used when:

  • delivery by safe hand can’t be done within 15 minutes (by foot or vehicle)
  • the sending and receiving agencies have an agreement on the use of commercial couriers for the carriage of CONFIDENTIAL material
  • arrangements have been made to ensure the receiving agency is able to accept the information at the expected delivery time.

Only commercial couriers that have been approved by the NZSIS must be used to carry SECRET material. Your CSO can request details on the requirements and approval process from the NZSIS.

General guidelines

Receipts: All CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET information sent via commercial courier or postal agency must be accompanied by a receipt. The receipt must be signed by the receiving agency and returned to the sending agency.

Packaging: For carriage by commercial courier, the courier satchel itself when opaque can stand as the outer envelope. Envelopes and wrappings need to be robust to stand up to the wear and tear of transit.

Dispatch and delivery: Do not leave protectively-marked information unattended while awaiting pick-up by courier.

Don’t dispatch protectively-marked information before weekends or public holidays unless the addressee is able to receive it the following day and secure it appropriately.

Check your delivery documentation to ensure items arrive within expected timeframes. 

If there has been an undue delay or there is any sign of tampering, both the sending and receiving CSOs should be notified.

When you can’t use a courier or postal agency

TOP SECRET material and material with a compartmented marking must not be carried by a commercial courier or postal agency. 
Special handling requirements that apply to information carrying endorsement markings may also preclude the use of a commercial courier.

Information marked with the New Zealand Eyes Only (NZEO) endorsement marking must be transferred according to its level of security classification.

The requirements for other endorsement markings are established by the controlling agency. 

Dealing with bulky material

Generally, when the size and weight of material means it can’t be moved using the safe hand method or commercial couriers, you need to take special precautions to ensure the material is not compromised, lost, or damaged in transit.

Seek advice from your CSO. Your CSO may, in turn, get advice from the NZSIS.

Dealing with high-risk unclassified material

If you need to transfer valuable material, such as artwork or money, to another agency, you can use commercial courier services.

However, take care to assess the courier service first. Make sure it is legitimate, reliable, and can offer the right level of protection for the risks you’ve identified.

You also need to meet any legislative requirements that apply to your material.

Whenever possible, avoid drawing attention to the specific nature of the material being moved. 

Extra security steps might be necessary in some circumstances. Steps such as:

  • sealing the material
  • security clearing the employees of the courier service
  • arranging a security or police escort.

Transferring electronic data

Protectively-marked data that is imported, exported, or transferred electronically must be protected in line with the NZISM – 20. Data Management.

Receiving hard copies

Before you allow anyone in your agency to receive hard copies of protectively-marked information, make sure they are aware of their responsibilities and, when necessary, hold the appropriate security clearance.

Protectively-marked documents should only be opened by the addressee or the alternative addressee. However, your agency head may authorise a specified person or area to open all mail and perform the related information or security management functions.

When someone other than the intended addressee is charged with its opening, adopt the normal practice of opening the outer envelope only. The inner envelope should only be opened in the presence of the addressee.

The recipient of a package containing protectively-marked documents must verify that the:

  • information was transferred by the appropriate means
  • seals and packaging are still intact.

Report any breakages, signs of tampering, or inappropriate transfer methods to your CSO and the CSO of the sending agency. If the package was delivered by an NZSIS-endorsed courier , you must advise the NZSIS.

The recipient must check that the contents and their integrity are preserved. For example, check the pages and table of contents, and sign and return any receipt accompanying the information. 

If your agency keeps a register for protectively-marked documents, make sure the information is registered.


Page last modified: 5/08/2019