How Secure Is the Information You Send in E-Mail?

Many I speak with have a misperception that sending an e-mail is as secure as sending a letter through the US Mail. Simply put, such is not the case. The US Mail has a secure process in place which includes controlled physical access to your sealed letters and envelopes by approved and monitored equipment and personnel.

In comparison, each e-mail message you send travels through an unknown number of servers, switches, routers and electronic equipment ~ bouncing along what I call the digital superhighway on its way to the intended recipient’s ISP for download to their e-mail application. There is no way to control over which wires, servers and equipment your e-mail goes and anyone with the applied knowledge and time can intercept, review and alter any e-mail message which touches their electronic equipment. So your e-mail touches their equipment = them able to do whatever they want with information contained in or attached to it. <-let that soak in

This is why I say e-mail is more of a postcard than it is a sealed envelope. Your information is really in the open and you never really know who may have read it along the way.

What About The E-mail You Receive?

Along with worrying about the confidentiality and security of the information and files you send in outgoing communications, you also must worry about the e-mails being received by your domain and downloaded into your e-mail application. Just one wrong “OK” by you or an employee (or anyone at any computer for that matter) can wreak havoc on the machine itself, the network to which it is connected and even worse – can potentially replicate and send itself to contacts and thereby infect them too!

Three of the most common incoming e-mail threats are:


Phishing is any attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out using e-mail and instant messaging.

You’ve probably received messages like this – from banks, credit card companies and financial institutions – many of whom you’ve never heard of or could even been one you actually have an account with (that’s why it’s called “fishing” ). These messages all look real enough, with appropriate logos and great motivational copy, almost always trying to make you think there is something wrong with your account and that you need to hurry. Don’t be fooled!

Never navigate to your bank or other on line service provider for which you need to type in a password through an e-mail you receive. Never! <-Read that sentence one more time so you don’t forget when you’re doing 100 other things! STOP AND DON’T CLICK IT!

Instead, open a new, secure browser and log in to your account to look for information from customer support about any issues. You can also call the customer support number listed right there in your on line account to speak with someone at the actual company or even advise of the phishing e-mail.


A computer virus is a program that can copy itself to a computer without permission or knowledge of the user/owner. A computer virus reproduces by making copies of itself in the computer’s memory, storage, or over a network.


A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other computers on the network. Unlike a virus, a worm does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms typically harm the network, whereas viruses infect or corrupt files on a targeted computer.

In many instances, computer viruses and worms are an attachment to or a link embedded in an e-mail. <-Now read that sentence again and let it sink in!!

This is why you should never open an attachment or click on a link in an e-mail received from an unknown recipient. In fact, even if you do know the sender you still need to be careful and pay attention!! How else can you be certain you’re not clicking on something a contact may have sent you by mistak?! Certainly, when in doubt – opt for no and DON’T CLICK IT!

Let’s face it, e-mail is not going away any time soon.  In fact, if your e-mail is anything like mine, over time the volume of incoming only increases.

That’s why it is more important than ever for those using e-mail to understand the inherent risks of conveying personally identifiable or company information and records using e-mail.  When used properly and with a mind towards safeguarding your personal and company information, as well as the equipment you use, e-mail can be the one tech that literally sets you free – from your office, your desk and even the 9-5 grind. It’s how I got my start to full mobility.

But when not used properly – when you let e-mail take over or when social security and credit card numbers are openly e-mailed, bad, bad, bad things happen (usually to very nice people).

Don’t let that happen to you and don’t let it happen to anyone who entrusts their confidential information to you. You owe it yourself, your co-workers, your contacts and equipment to use e-mail wisely.

Now here’s a little 2minute-ish video I created out of a past presentation about security:



Direct link:


To check to see if your connection is secure, try Shield’s Up!


-Andrea Cannavina, New York City (and a Canadian!).

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