Throughout history, politicians and others have learned the hard way not to put anything in writing. After all, it could (and will) end up in glaring headlines on the front page of a major publication such as The New York Times. Avoiding this embarrassment is a hard lesson for many to learn. Salacious headlines and ugly news may be avoided by simply picking up a phone or calling a personal meeting to discuss sensitive matters. That’s not always a feasible option. But remembering that whatever you do, to not put it in writing, takes on new meaning these days.
Email communications have been rocketing private communications into the stratosphere for some time now. Information formerly jotted down on paper is now written in email, running the same risk of ending up in the headlines or leading to a data breach. From politics to business and everywhere in between, emails are the new hand-written notes. Keeping potentially sensitive messages between sender and receiver is becoming a security priority for public and private citizens alike. Regardless of whether or not your email is encrypted, the assumption should always be that if it’s email, it is automatically public information and/or available to a cyber criminal. That’s because email is not a secure form of communication.
How to keep these emails from creating headlines is a common sense and technology issue. Suggestions on how to combat this new era of information are beginning to take shape.
– Never send sensitive or confidential information through email. Business email compromise (BEC) is big business. The FBI continues to warn of this scam continuing to circulate via email. If someone asks for W-2 information or other sensitive data, question why it is needed and who is asking. If it is a legitimate request, find another way to get it to the requestor other than email.
– Vigilance against phishing and other security breach issues by employees and private citizens alike is key. Clicking on unsecured links and malware opens the user up to all types of security risks, including access to private emails.
– Businesses and organizations are beefing up methods of encryption and system fortitude. Finding ways for technological transparency can pinpoint security weaknesses. It’s one big way to stop them and it’s an ongoing effort. However, none of the solutions are foolproof.
– There’s no replacement for a level head and good judgment. Whether personal or business related emails, know that your words now exist permanently and ad infinitum in cyberspace. Just ask Sony executives. If you don’t want your words to become public or if they involve sensitive data, don’t send them in an email.
Maneuvering without risk in the world of emails is a challenge in the very least. For now, sending an email you assume is private can be instantly forwarded to countless entities worldwide. Email is the new wild west of front-page news and the more senders are protected from themselves–by common sense and cyber security efforts–front-page exposure opportunities will be minimized.
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