Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Electronic Fax Security - Is it safe?

Electronic Fax Security - Is it safe?
We receive a great deal of questions from our clients about the safety and security of their customer data. While a layered approach always seems to be the best practice, we find that most of our clients make assumptions about certain methods of communication - especially e-mail and electronic faxing. We at ZoNE-X felt compelled to share our insight on one of the many misconceptions that is prevalent in current times.

What is electronic faxing (E-Faxing)?
Electronic faxing, or E-Faxing, is a method used to convert traditional faxes into electronic format (either TIFF, JPG, GIF, or PDF) that can be accessed via a computer. Most times it is subscription based, meaning you pay an outside or 3rd party service provider to utilize the service. Rather than relying on a physical device to receive your fax and transfer it to paper, E-Faxing can deliver a document that will show up on your computer screen. Not only is this a great time saver, but it is a great resource to make an effort towards "going green" by conserving paper, electricity and eliminating an extra device to maintain.

If I am the only person who receives the E-Fax, isn't it secure?
A common misconception is that something that can only be seen on your computer screen is safe from prying eyes. Most people feel that as long as no person can physically see the item on their computer screen, then it is safe from unwarranted access. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that is carried over your company network, let alone the Internet, can be accessed by a clever individual. Assume that anything that opens up very easily, or can be accessed by a few clicks, is more than likely an insecure data source or document. Here's why...

Why is my E-Fax not safe & secure?
Most electronic faxing occurs with the help of an outside service. Some of the popular services are J2, E-Fax, and FaxMicro. All offer different levels of service, depending on your specific needs. But there is a common link - they all primarily use e-mail to deliver the faxes to your computer. This is where that warm fuzzy feeling starts to fade. With a traditional telephone line, it would require direct physical access to either the receiver or the sender's telephone line (at the building or inside the office) for someone to intercept a fax communication. E-Faxing is secure up until the point it becomes an e-mail message and is delivered to your inbox across the Internet.

Why is this an issue?
As a result of the fact that faxes are held with high regard to be legally binding documents (by faxing a signature, you can be held liable for most legally binding transactions), you can easily see the need to safeguard the information contained therein. But, as most people (at unfortunately) do not understand, e-mail is one of the most INSECURE methods of communication on the Internet. It is the non-physical counterpart to sending a postcard through the postal service. Anyone who wants is able to read your postcard (and you will never know). Just the same, anyone who wants, and has the technical ability, can read your e-mail. As such is the case, they have access to all that juicy information contained within each and every e-mail you feel is a one-way link to your intended recipient - and we mean ALL OF IT!

This basic fact arises - E-mail is insecure; therefore anything received via e-mail is insecure. (E-mail = Not Secure)

With the exception of encrypted e-mail (certificate/key based encryption), 100% of your private communications via e-mail are in fact... NOT PRIVATE. If someone really, really, really wants to take a peek at those personal photos, videos, or E-Faxes you are sending as attachments, they CAN and they WILL.

Should I use E-Faxing for my fax needs?
The answer is YES and NO - as it depends on your specific situation. If you have a duty to your customer to protect their private data/information that is a regular part of what you receive via fax, then you should absolutely NOT USE an E-Faxing service. If you only receive basic documentation and nothing exceptionally personal, private, or copyrighted, then using E-Faxing is a great tool. There are methods to receive E-Faxes to a device at your office, which does not traverse the Internet. This is much more secure than using a 3rd party service. However, that crafty co-worker who wants to steal your business leads may simply access your files and see what is in that E-Fax - but corporate theft is a different topic all together.

I am confused & concerned... What should I do now?
At ZoNE-X, we are problem solvers. Send us a brief message with your specific issue. We can help you find a solution or walk you through your concerns until you arrive at a 100% satisfactory resolution. Give us a call at: +1 (877) 77-ZONE-X or +1 (877) 779-6639 or visit our website at:

Find out how ZONE-X can help your Small Business with IT Services & Support

1 comment:

ugid said...

E-mail not being secure is just one of the security issues of electronic fax.

There's another one.
In traditional fax, only the sending and receiving parties have access to the fax.
In efax, some employees of the efax company have access to the document sent. Try contacting an efax company's customer service to inquire about, say, the quality of the pdf conversion. The customer service employee can easily pull out the pdf file and, hence, access whatever private information you have in the file.