Considering how widely e-mails are used as a business tool, most companies are surprisingly lax when it comes to properly securing their e-mails. This could lead to enormous losses in a world where cyber-crime is on the rise.

Today, there’s hardly a company that doesn’t depend, to a large extent at least, on its e-mail communications. There are so many advantages associated with e-mail communication, from mobility to reliability to economy, that it has become an integral part of business today. Despite this, it still receives far less attention than it should when it comes to security requirements.

It’s very important that the sensitive data residing on e-mails remains confidential, explains Herman Kriel, GM for data protection at Altron CyberTech, otherwise it can cause serious damage to a company. Data exposure via e-mail communication is more problematic than ever, owing to increasing regulations on the one hand, and rising cyber crime and theft of personal information on the other. Without the right security measures implemented and used correctly, something as simple as selecting the wrong recipient by accident can expose important and sensitive information, and cause serious damage to the company or individual.

Herman Kriel, GM for data protection at CyberTech, a division of Altron.

“Moreover, it’s important to remember that it is not only those outside your organisation who may see information they are not meant to,” says Kriel. “There are, inevitably, numerous internal administrators who have rights and privileges to access e-mail accounts. Therefore, encryption has never been more critical if you are to ensure that communication between you and your recipients remains just between you.

“This is why it’s so important to protect the confidentiality and integrity of e-mail messages and attachments both while in transit and at rest. At the same time, however, any attempt at encryption has to meet certain criteria; notably, it needs to be easy for the user to operate at each end. Essentially, we are talking about a single click for the sender to secure it at one end, and a very easy process to securely register and download the encryption key at the other end, as well as one that is automatically linked to the respective e-mail address.

“Remember: any solution that is too complicated to use or that is too time-consuming for the user will fail, because as the complexity increases, so the likelihood that the user will even bother to utilise the solution decreases.”

Adds Kriel: “Something else to think about when choosing an encryption solution is that the best ones offer you the option of having an expiry date on the encrypted mail, if the originator so chooses. Basically, the receiver will have only a certain amount of time to read the message before it will automatically expire the mail, effectively removing it from the recipient’s mail and not leaving it in his or her hands alone to delete it.

“In this way, the sender is assured that their information remains protected. Furthermore, by linking the encryption key to a specific e-mail address, it becomes possible to overcome the challenge of someone being able to read the e-mail if it was accidentally sent to the wrong e-mail address.”

Kriel adds that the same type of encryption is suited to ensuring that the information remains secure, even when the data is at rest, such as when it is being stored locally or in the cloud. This is particularly necessary for any corporate information kept or shared in the public cloud.

“Ultimately, encryption technology allows you to keep control of your most crucial data in your own hands, while still affording you the opportunity for collaboration with other parties, without any fear of your data getting lost. This is because whether your data is on the move or at rest, your documents will remain encrypted until viewed by the correct user, who will have the right key and clearance.

“The reality is that when it comes to security issues of any kind, it is the people issue that is the most important thing to remember, since people are prone to making errors. Therefore, the only logical answer is to implement a secure and automated encryption solution to effectively protect your data. In this way, you will leave such security up to an automated process, eliminating the human factor,” he concludes.