Information security has always been a big deal. However, keeping data safe is more difficult in an internet connected world than it has ever been. If you must send sensitive information online, always follow the best practices to send documents securely.
The good news is that this is actually easier than you think. Here’s what you need to know and how to send documents securely over the internet.
Should You Send Sensitive Information Online?
Never send sensitive information online unless you know who you’re sending it to and why they need it. Most honest people and organizations need little personal or confidential information beyond your name. You can almost always refuse to send sensitive information online without a problem.
Yes, certain activities require that you supply some sensitive information. But, even in these cases, you should double check who’s asking for the information and make sure that you’re sending it using a secure method.
Being careful with your info might be inconvenient. But it’s much less inconvenient than having your information stolen and used maliciously.
Understanding the Risks
The risks of sending sensitive information online fall into two categories: sending information to bad actors and information being stolen.
Believe it or not, most people get tricked into sending their information to cybercriminals more often than cybercriminals hack systems and steal information. It takes very little technical expertise or time to write a scam email posing as someone who really needs your critical information.
However, information systems can be compromised. And bad actors do breach computers and connections to steal data.
That’s why it’s critical that you verify the recipient and the delivery method before you send sensitive information. This is easier than it sounds.
How to Send Documents Securely
Sometimes we have to provide some confidential information. Certain goods and services require it. If you have to send sensitive documents online, follow these best practices to send documents securely:
- Check the email address and the sender name before you email sensitive documents. Cybercriminals can change the sender name to impersonate people and organizations.
- Type web addresses into your browser. Never click on links in an email or copy and paste a link from an email.
- Make sure that a website has “HTTPS” in the web address before you enter any information. This indicates that the website uses a secure connection.
- Store confidential documents on a local hard drive, if possible, rather than in the cloud.
These best practices may not protect you from absolutely everything. But they will help stop you from falling for scams designed to steal your information.
If you need more security than just being careful can provide, there are a few things you can do to enhance your information security even further.
Fax over Private IP
Fax is the most secure way to send documents. Fax machines are far less connected than email accounts. And they’re basically immune to information theft scams. Since there are fewer ways to breach a fax connection, fax is one of the most secure ways to send sensitive information.
Yes, modern fax machines can and do connect through the internet, using a SIP trunk. However, the fax connection can be isolated and encrypted by sending the information through private IP networks.
A private IP network keeps faxed information from traveling over the public internet. That makes it very difficult for cybercriminals to intercept the information in transit. It’s much more difficult to gain access to a private network, let alone break into it.
But, if a bad actor does get ahold of fax data while it was in transit, the network encrypts the data. So the criminal can’t read or use that data.
That’s two layers of protection, in addition to the fact that fax connections are targeted far less than email accounts.
If you must send your documents online, partner a communications provider that enables you to send faxes over an IP network. That way you get the convenience of digital communication, with the security of legacy phone systems.
Encrypted File Sharing Service
If you’re unable to fax documents, you can also use an encrypted file sharing service. Technically, using encrypted file sharing involves keeping documents in the cloud, which we advised against. But encrypted file sharing services have safeguards to make this a viable option.
An encrypted file sharing service is cloud storage that encrypts the files while they’re in storage. If you need to send a file to someone, you send them a link to access the file on your encrypted cloud storage drive.
The encrypted file sharing service decrypts the file before sending it to them. Some services send a separate decryption key. That way the file stays encrypted while it’s being transmitted.
The biggest difference between fax over IP and encrypted file sharing services is that encrypted file sharing services are designed to address the issues of public internet connectivity and email without the limited connectivity of fax machines.
Encrypted file sharing is far more secure than email. However, it still relies on the public internet. And cloud storage is just as connected as email. In a way, encrypted file sharing has one very strong layer of security and fax has two very strong layers of security.
Avoid Sending Confidential Emails
Email is by far the least preferred method for sending sensitive information. There are security protocols for email. But email addresses are simply too easily breached and have too many connected accounts to be secure enough for confidential information.
Most legitimate organizations and individuals know this. If someone is asking you to send confidential information via email, there’s a good chance that they’re trying to steal your information, and you should double check to find out who they are.
You should avoid sending confidential emails, if it’s at all possible. There are almost always alternative methods in situations where you really do need to send some critical information. The most common and easily accessible alternative is fax.
If fax isn’t an option, there is one other method of sending information that’s tried and true.
Alternatives to Sending Information Online
If the information you’re sending is incredibly sensitive or email is your only other option, delivering sensitive information in person is proven to be safe and effective. And it’s more secure than any method of sending sensitive information online.
If you deliver your information in person, you know exactly what route the documents took and you can verify that nobody saw them. At the other end, you can verify who you’re giving the information to and that they were indeed the one who received the documents.
However, delivering documents in person is resource intensive and isn’t always an option. Fortunately, the next best thing—fax over IP—is affordable and easy to use.
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