For Your Eyes Only: The Best Email Encryption and Privacy Tactics
What’s the most effective email security policy?
One employees will actually use.
That may seem obvious, but it’s startling how many well-thought-out email security policies get circumvented by employees who just want to set up a meeting, send a file, or forward something amusing, and don’t want to jump through hoops to do it.
After all, we’ve heard that even high government officials have been known to go around email security precautions when their requirements became onerous and difficult to use.
But there are ways to enforce email security policies that are transparent to the end users, starting with data leak protection and email encryption for confidential information—but it doesn’t end there.
Understand that humans use technology, not the other way around
Everyone agrees that email data leak protection and encryption is essential to protect confidential business information. But for employees it often seems like just another obstacle on the way to doing their jobs. What they don't know is that most states require confidential information to be encrypted when sending via email.
A business, whether an enterprise or a small or medium-sized business (SMB), should always have the employees’ goals in mind when rolling out new secure email software and procedures. Email security procedures should be transparent and easy to use for the end-user. A business with a good understanding of its own workforce should be able to anticipate potential problems before implementing company-wide email best practices and secure technology.
Questions to keep in mind include:
- Does the new technology integrate into the current email client?
- If an employee neglects to select the encryption button (if applicable), will the data be encrypted anyways based on the content?
- Is the technology “smart”; i.e. can your system identify and restrict confidential information being sent via email, with or without attachments?
- Does the technology support mobile devices?
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Educate. But don’t rely on education alone
All employees have sat through security trainings, received reminder emails from HR or IT, and signed off on policies, indicating they understand them. Insecure emails are still sent, and breaches still occur.
Employees really do need to see examples of what happens when confidential data is inadvertently released because of inadequate attention to security procedures. They do need to understand that they bear a professional and personal responsibility for those, when they occur. And they need to be able to ask questions and be able to use the answers, both during initial rollout and at any time after.
But they also need to have simple, easy-to-follow procedures that encourage them to stay secure. The practice must reinforce what they learned.
Give your employees secure features they actually like
If the secure messaging implementation ties into how employees do their jobs, it is more likely to get used consistently. Most employees genuinely do want to be productive.
- Employees should never wonder if they succeeded in sending their secure email, particularly if it is time-sensitive. Timestamp confirmation can let them know their recipient has acted on the email.
- Employees need to be able send secure emails with their phone or other mobile device. It’s just a fact of life that most emails are now sent and received on the go.
- Employees should feel confident that they aren’t taking inadvertent risks. A well-implemented system will reassure them that they are compliant, and need take no further steps.
Use both push and pull to achieve compliance
Push your employees on security, encryption, and privacy. Then deploy an encrypted email solution in such a way that they are pulled to use it. Your employees are your most important asset. Help them do their jobs in the most secure way possible, and they will help you achieve compliance.