It’s time to ditch email
Email – as we know it now – was invented in 1972 and the basic technology used to make it work hasn’t changed significantly since 1974. In technology terms, that’s positively pre-historic.
Way back then, some forty-plus years ago, data protection and cybersecurity were concepts which had yet to be imagined. The fledgling internet was a closed shop, with only a few select individuals and institutions having access to what was, in essence, a secure network. Protecting communications – i.e. email – from prying eyes wasn’t an issue because the only people who were able to access the network were inherently trusted.
Now, though, it’s a very different story. And if you’re still using email for your business communications, it’s definitely time for a rethink.
Sending an email is a little like shouting your message with a megaphone from the top of a tall building. Yes, the chances are your intended recipient will get what you’re trying to say; but so can anyone else who feels like listening in. That’s because, with standard email, there’s nothing to stop anyone who owns any of the parts of the internet your message travels through reading your whole message. Even worse, emails can be tampered with in transit, without leaving any trace at all that they’ve even been read.
In an increasingly privacy-aware, post-GDPR world, hopefully, we can all agree that this isn’t a satisfactory way to handle sensitive business data.
Internal email – which stays within an organisation’s own closed network – is still reasonably safe to use. A malicious actor would have to hack into your network to gain access to your messages. For communication outside your organisation, or where data needs to travel over the open internet – between business locations, for example – email is simply unsuitable for all but the most benign and insecure of messages.
So, what’s the answer? VPNs can be used to effectively bring remote devices inside your internal network, and PGP encryption can secure the content of your emails, but both solutions are far from user-friendly and will require a significant investment in staff training for their use to be effective. A better option could be instant messaging. Far from its early days as a teenage chatroom, instant messaging (IM) is now a mature, secure method of communication.
Leading IM providers such as WhatsApp, Signal, Threema, and Wire all offer secure, end-to-end encrypted communications. Which option is best for you will depend on your particular organisational needs, but all offer far greater security – and functionality – than email, while protecting your business from data protection and GDPR issues. The best part is that most of them are completely free.