From innovative chat applications to collaborative, software there are multiple options to communicate information online today. However, for many enterprises, email is still the first choice.
Most organisations and institutions will need to transmit and share data classed as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at some point. While healthcare and legal firms may send daily emails with patient health records and confidential contracts, most companies will at least issue digital personnel payslips or send internal emails containing personal information.
Companies have responsibility to protect any PII they handle, to safeguard individuals and organisations from cybercrime, and to ensure they stay compliant with data protection regulations. Failure to do so can result in incidents involving data breaches, with personal information exposed and exploited, and may lead to heavy fines for non-compliancy from the authorities.
While there is no universal solution adopted for safeguarding emails, the UK’s Information Commissioners Office (ICO) recommends always encrypting emails when sending or storing data of a personal nature.
Personal information security issues when sending data by email
PII is defined as any data that allows a specific person to be distinguished from another. This can be something as simple as a name, address or passport number, but it can also be a digital image, a bank statement or even a customer service call recording.
Email is a common choice for sharing data, but to function, fields must be completed containing readable text that states who the message is from and to whom it is being sent. Before any content is added at all, the email by necessity must contain PII. If the email is intercepted by a third party or sent to an incorrect address, it can potentially be accessed by someone other than the intended recipient. When this happens, address details plus the entire content of the email (including any attachments) is disclosed and information security compromised.
PII in messages can be at risk not only when emails are sent, but also when they are at rest. If an unauthorised individual gains access to an email server or personal account, they can view emails that have already been transmitted or are in draft form and still waiting to be sent.
Safeguarding emails from cybercriminals
Unsecure emails can quickly become a target for hackers who use the personal information they contain as part of long and short-term criminal strategies. Intercepted emails that contain financial information like account details or credit card numbers can be used to steal funds, while personal data can be used for identity theft.
Emails that contain company login details like usernames and passwords can also be exploited, giving hackers deeper access to an enterprise’s servers and online accounts. This can be the first stage in a larger cybercrime campaign.
An email compromised by cybercriminals that contains PII can also enable them to create more effective attacks. The more personal information a hacker possesses, the more convincing they can be when impersonating an individual or company employee, allowing them to trick victims into disclosing even more sensitive and confidential data.
The power of encryption
Encryption is an effective answer to problems like personal information being disclosed when emails are sent incorrectly, or accessed with criminal intent by malicious actors. Whether personal data is contained in emails sitting in user accounts or being sent out to recipients, encryption can ensure that the information will only be viewed by those for whom it was intended. This means that should a cybercriminal intercept an email or hack a user’s account they will not be able to read the coded data, keeping any personal details the message contains like financial details or a national insurance number entirely safe.
Using encryption to protect personally identifiable information
An encrypted email facility can deliver businesses with the capability to fully encrypt not just the body of an email but also any attachments included. However, the receiving and sending of encrypted emails requires enterprises to first adopt email client software that is compatible and requires setting up in advance before safe communication can take place.
Encrypted email employs asymmetric encryption. Before they can send their secure email with encryption, a user must first generate a pair of keys to be used to access the data – one for the sender and the other for the recipient. Private keys must always be kept completely secret, to make sure the encryption is not compromised and only those with authorisation and the appropriate key can access the private information being transmitted.
Troubleshooting encryption methods from the start
While acquiring a high-quality encryption solution is essential for organisations sending and storing personal information, there are some important points to consider. In order for encryption to be effective, it has to be simple to use, or those employing it may make errors adding to security risks. Selecting an encryption platform that provides cutting-edge data protection while remaining user friendly is crucial and the best approach when you want to get the most out of this additional form of security for email.
Encryption should provide total protection, but it must not hinder workflow. Ensure the security solutions you choose is not just easy to use, but does not interfere with other important tools’ and devices’ functionality.
A comprehensive security option for sending sensitive information by email
At Galaxkey, we understand the importance of sending PII securely in emails for enterprises, so we have developed a security platform with the highest level of encryption available. Our unique three-layered encryption safeguards not just email body copy, but any attachments included that contain personal information as well. No passwords are ever stored on our system, and only users with appropriate access rights and encryption keys can view data contained in emails.
Whether the email including PII is at rest or on the move, all data will be fully protected. Our secure email platform is bolstered with additional features for users, including anti-spoofing options like digital sign and email-timeout – ideal for keeping compliant by giving you complete control of how long your data is accessible for. Contact our team today for greater email security.