Failing to secure your organization's email is nowadays not an option. It’s like keeping a safe unlocked with the key in the lock. It makes your email vulnerable to all sorts of errors and attacks.
Municipality, region, and state authorities in the Nordics alone send millions of notifications, announcements, and resolutions to private individuals every day using methods such as regular mail, fax, and email.
For example, the majority of Swedish citizens and organizations have come to prefer and rely on emails. Simply for their convenience, speed, and economy for both personal and professional purposes. On the other hand, “snail mail” and fax are tedious, bothersome, and costly.
The difference in cost between sending a prioritized letter and an email is millions. More precisely, millions of taxpayers’ money. So, financially it makes absolute sense to use email for communication between authorities and citizens.
However, while email offers many benefits, it also poses risks to the privacy of individuals and to the security of personal information. GDPR establishes rules for protecting the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of their personal information, while at the same time facilitating effective and timely communication between authorities and citizens.
Let’s look at how the data travels from a sender to the recipient and where the weakest links and security concerns are.
The most significant threat to the confidentiality of email messages is human error. It may result in unintentional exposure of data as email inadvertently gets sent to the wrong recipient.
The good news is that if you use email encryption, it scrambles the contents of an email so that only those with an access key or password can unscramble and read it. Authentication of the email recipient decreases the risk of data exposure by human error even further.
An example from real life; a social services staff member emails a file containing sensitive personal data of 153 individuals to the wrong email address. As the email was not encrypted every recipient of the email could access the content. Subsequently, 153 individuals' personal data was exposed.
One way to safeguard and prevent such human error is to use an email protection solution that offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology. DLP solutions not only know how to prevent data leaks but also automatically categorize email messages and attachments based on their contents. If the material comes from, for example, social services and the message includes social security numbers, it can be classified as confidential communication which is always sent encrypted.
Advanced secure email solutions offer the option to use encryption also for incoming emails. Meaning that customers can initiate encrypted messaging towards, for example, mentioned social services. Therefore, securing both outgoing and incoming email traffic.
Email in transit
An unprotected email message passes as a plain language over the internet, routing through multiple servers and actors to the recipient's email service. All services and actors acting as technical intermediaries for the message can see the content of the message. And even if the technical mediators are honest and careful, they can sometimes be the subject of a data breach.
Further, even if the sender and the recipient of the email message are in the same country, the email may pass through several countries on the way. It might meet government actors on the journey, who might have a statutory right to screen communications through their country.
In recent years, cybersecurity companies have further developed the security of email protection solutions in many ways. Many of the companies consistently use transport layer security (TLS or SSL) to encrypt communications via email services. This is the same technology used to protect the communications of online banking and other cloud services, making it a robust technology for email protection.
There are additional measures that improve email security along the way. For instance, the installment of email security protocols (DMARC/DKIM/SPF) helps to prevent email scams, like spoofing and phishing, and ensure that legitimate emails are authenticated and delivered.
Although precautions are taken at the sender's end and in transit, there are still concerns at the receiving end that need addressing.
Taking additional steps to further protect the email and ensure that the intended recipient is the one who opens and accesses the email is sensible. For example, adding an extra step to the login process which only the intended recipient can complete with their mobile device or via strong authentication methods, such as bank-ID. Some of the modern security email solutions offer such options.
Word of caution here though, it might not be a very good practice to send authentication messages to the same inbox as confidential messages.
All-in-all, there are several technologies that can improve email security from the sender to the recipient. Finding the right solution that incorporates relevant security measures and is easy to adopt, both for sender and recipient, is the trick. If employees are offered a solution that is cumbersome to use, they will take the easy way out and send conventional emails out thereby compromising the security and reputation of the organization.
The Secure Mail email encryption solution protects your company’s confidential email traffic and monitors and manages your information security efficiently and effortlessly.
Benefits of Secure Mail:
- An easy-to-use tool to protect your organization’s email messaging
- Send confidential emails to any external address, safely
- Get an insight into your organization’s information security policy in terms of email traffic
- Prevent information leaks due to a human error
- Comply with legislation, recommendations, and agreements on data security (GDPR)
Miikka guides the software architecture and development at SSH. He has over 20 years of experience in IT industry, building teams and developing products in startups and large enterprises.