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Know the Risks of Emailing Personal Information

July 12, 2023

Know the Risks of Emailing Personal Information

While email remains convenient for everyday communication, it is crucial to recognize its limitations in safeguarding personal information. The lack of encryption, susceptibility to data breaches, phishing attacks, and insecure recipient devices all contribute to the inherent risks. To ensure the security and privacy of sensitive data, it is advisable to explore alternative methods of communication that prioritize encryption and data protection. These methods include encrypted messaging apps or secure file transfer services.  

One primary concern with email communication is the lack of end-to-end encryption. Emails are typically sent as plain text, which can be intercepted and read by malicious individuals or hackers. This vulnerability exposes personal information to the risk of unauthorized access, potentially resulting in identity theft, financial fraud, or other forms of cybercrime.  

Email service providers and servers are also vulnerable to data breaches and hacking attempts. Even well-known platforms have experienced large-scale security breaches, compromising millions of users' privacy. When personal information is transmitted via email, it remains stored on servers, making it susceptible to unauthorized access and potentially exposing sensitive data to cybercriminals. 

Phishing attacks are another common threat associated with email usage. Cybercriminals often employ this tactic to deceive users into revealing personal information. They may send seemingly legitimate emails, mimicking trustworthy entities like banks, government agencies, or popular websites. These emails often contain links or attachments that, when clicked or opened, can lead to malware installation. They can also direct users to fake websites designed to steal personal information.  

The security of personal information transmitted via email is not solely dependent on the sender. The recipient's device can also pose a security risk. If the recipient's computer or smartphone is compromised, it could provide unauthorized access to the email and its contents. This could expose sensitive information to malicious actors.  

 Furthermore, emails are typically stored on servers for an extended period, even after being deleted from the sender's or recipient's devices. This prolonged retention increases the risk of unauthorized access to personal information. In cases where email accounts are compromised or hacked, past emails containing sensitive data can be accessed by unauthorized individuals.  

To mitigate these risks, safer alternatives should be considered. Encrypted messaging apps provide end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the sender and recipient can access the information exchanged. Secure file transfer services (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and DFS shares), instead of attaching sensitive documents to emails, use encryption to protect the data during transit. Password-protected file archives (e.g., zip files) offer another option by encrypting personal files using strong passwords and sharing them as password-protected archives with the recipient through a different communication channel.  

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Page last modified July 12, 2023