Mail or Email: How to Send Documents Securely
by Arina Smith How to Guides 01 March 2019
The postal service in the U.S has a long and prestigious history that goes all the way back to Benjamin Franklin in 1775. The postal service has progressively modernized as the needs of its users have changed.
In fact, today you can send documents all over the world and track them as they progress through various delivery points. Still, it begs the question, why go to the trouble of sending documents through the postal service when you can simply email them at the click of a button?
Is email secure enough to send confidential documents? For that matter, you could also ask, which is more secure when sending confidential documents, email or post?
In this article, you will learn how to send documents securely and know which is the best option for you.
What Is Confidential and What Is Not?
The answer to this question may seem self-intuitive. Surely, confidential information is the type of information you do not want others to know. That is true.
However, if you are a very private person that could make everything you write confidential. It may not be practical or realistic to treat all that information as confidential in the truest sense.
So, for clarity, it is helpful to think of confidential information as that which is shared with only a few people and with a specific purpose in mind. The ability to send and receive confidential information is an important part of building trust between you and others.
Here are some examples of confidential information:
- Personal details such as passport number, date of birth and home address
- Bank details
- Tax documents
- Contractual documents such as employment or for providing services
- Medical history and occupational health
If the confidentiality of this information is not maintained, it could be used for a purpose in which it was not intended. A worrying example is identity theft. In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft.
Of course, there are other ways that confidential information, if leaked, can be misused. This is a big concern when you are the one being entrusted with the confidential information of others.
Send Documents Securely – Gold Standard:
The most secure way to send confidential documents is to simply hand deliver them yourself to the intended recipient. This is the oldest method and the most secure.
At first glance, this may seem impractical. That all depends.
True, the internet has opened up a global market for all sorts of services that involve the exchange of confidential information. For example, you can employ someone on the other side of the world to maintain your account books.
However, there is a lot to be said for employing certain services locally. For example, if your accountant is local, even in the same building this will make life much easier. Of course, it is all about choices.
Assuming this option is not open to you, how can you proceed?
Is Email Secure?
The answer to this question is yes and no.
It all depends on how you do it. It is important to be aware that documents attached to your email do not receive any special treatment. That means that they can be intercepted by others using the same network and read if desired.
There are more sinister ways that others may use to try and access your email. For example, if your computer has become infected with a virus. It is possible to copy your email folder and redirect to another computer.
Therefore, if you take a passive and uninformed approach to the use of email as your means of sending confidential documents, it may only be a matter of time before you run into problems. An alternative is to employ an IT management service for your business so these issues are cared for.
If your attachment is confidential then you should encrypt the document and password protect it before sending. There are many ways you can do this. One of the simplest is using designated PDF software that includes encryption and password functionality.
Use FTP or SFTP:
This stands for File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol. Put simply, this is a way of opening a secure and encrypted channel between your computer and a remote server or another computer.
Password protected and encrypted documents can be transferred from one computer to another using this secure portal. You may find that certain services are already using these techniques before you employ them.
For example, legal firms and accountants may already have a specific platform set up that will allow you to plug in and send your confidential documents. Alternatively, you may see the advantages of using your own dedicated server.
As good as it sounds, remember that nothing is completely secure. Many news reports on data leaks and hacking verify that if anyone is determined enough, ways can be found to access online data.
Is the Post Secure?
Passwords and encryption used with electronic data are basically metaphors for the hard wrapping that goes on your confidential physical mail.
Once your document is placed in a confidential envelope and sealed it is basically secure. This useful site has some excellent tips on using certified labels to save money but also receive notifications that your mail has arrived securely.
While it is true, someone can open your mail without the authority it is a federal offense with serious consequences. If you use USPS, they will deliver directly to your postal box which also means your mail is not waiting for someone else to take it.
Which Postal Service Should I Use?
Good question. The answer depends on the size of your package and your budget as well as the time frame you need for delivery. Most likely the best option is to use a combination of the main 3 providers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
Mail Versus Email – Last Word:
In this article, you have read about the risks and some advantages of using these services to send documents securely. No one can make the choice for you but it is important to be well-informed.
You may see that there are advantages to making use of all these options. It depends on the type of documents you are sending. Also, the level of risk that is acceptable for certain documents.
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