Keep your business e-mail private

Avoid embarassing and potentially legally damaging security lapses

What are the consequences if you e-mail sensitive business information, such as financial statements or a report with evidence of employee wrongdoing, and it falls into the wrong hands?

At the very least, the security lapse would be embarrassing. There could also be more serious legal repercussions.

The question arose with one of my clients when their favourite translation firm closed its local office. Due to the quick turnaround times required, it was no longer feasible to courier discs with highly sensitive documents to and from the translators. But if they began sending the documents by e-mail, how could they ensure that only authorized personnel could read the messages?

Sending standard e-mail has all the privacy (or lack thereof) of dropping a postcard in the corner mailbox. Yet it's possible to virtually eliminate this security weakness by using secure e-mail.

You can implement secure e-mail using a widely accepted security certificate for little cost. Most major e-mail clients support security certificates for POP3 accounts, but this form of secure e-mail is not designed for use with most Web-based accounts.

The trouble with standard e-mail

There is more than one security issue with standard e-mail. Some e-mail programs automatically fill in the intended recipient's e-mail address based upon the name entered in the "To" box. But this can be problematic. A message intended for John Blacksmith may be addressed to the John Black in your address book, unless you catch the error in time.

Furthermore, an e-mail message typically travels a circuitous path along the Internet. It may temporarily reside on more than one intermediate server, taking several hops to reach its final destination. At any point along the route someone can intercept and read the message. How can you perform the electronic equivalent of sealing and registering a letter?

What makes e-mail secure?

There are two main objectives in securing e-mail: to verify the identity of the sender, and to ensure that only the authorized recipient can read the message.

A security certificate, such as a Digital ID, is attached to the e-mail message and verifies that the e-mail originated with the sender and has not been altered along its route. E-mail clients such as Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express tag messages that have a Digital ID with a distinctive badge.

A Digital ID identifies a specific e-mail address and is usually issued by a trusted authority. The cost is modest: I checked several Digital ID authorities and found that charges ranged from free to US$25 per e-mail address.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?