The Importance of Encrypted Emails in Protecting Sensitive PII

Mar 17, 2021


The Importance of Encrypted Emails in Protecting Sensitive PII

Email encryption is a vital tool to ensure data protection in this digital era. An email passes through several channels before reaching its intended reader. On its way to the recipient, the data is susceptible to the prying eyes of hackers who may infiltrate the system, resulting in a data breach. However, by encrypting your messages containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII), you can void potential customer privacy violations. Here's what you need to about the role of encrypted emails in safeguarding sensitive PII.

PII Explained

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) consists of facts that identify or infer a specific individual either in digital or hardcopy form. This information is supposed to be disposed of daily by professionals who use them. While not all PII is sensitive data, much of it is, which makes it susceptible to being exploited by criminals engaged in identity theft. Compromising confidential financial information can lead to severe losses for the victim. Here are examples of sensitive PII:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Biometric Identifiers (fingerprints, iris scans)
  • Any Debit or Credit Card Number with Expiration Date

Typically any such personal detail that can be linked to an individual's ID will be counted as sensitive PII. Security breaches of PII are called "privacy incidents," in which information from an account is leaked, leading to potential or real personal losses. When a firm loses control of its data to hackers, it's often due to an employee not executing safety controls while using PII data.

Guide to Sending PII Emails

When email was first created, encryption standards to secure an email message were limited. As hackers began to easily steal information, technologists began implementing security protocols to ensure messages were protected. Thus, the protocols for encrypting an email in transit and end-to-end encryption, became protocol. Most email platforms today use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to secure email messages are traveling securely from an individual’s computer to the server. TLS protects messages in transit against opportunistic man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. MITM attacks will attempt to read a message while the text is in transit from sender to recipient. TLS is now the default standard for email providers like Google and Microsoft. End-to-end encryption ensures messages are encrypted on the senders device and then only decrypted on the recipients device. In end-to-end encrypted emails, public and private keys are utilized. In this format, servers in between can never read the message. This is important because it prevents any third party from reading messages while along the path to the recipient. There are multiple ways to ensure a company is securely utilizing encrypted emails. Enterprises should have a platform that is both easy to use and ensures that messages are from who the user says they are. To ensure this goal:

  • All key creation and management should take place behind the scenes.
  • Digital signatures should be created to ensure security.
  • Email should integrate with popular platforms like Gmail and Outlook.
  • Users should not have to switch platforms to send secure emails.
  • Mobile integrations are needed for encrypted email platforms.
  • Admin should never have access to users private keys; this prevents admin from attack.

Your company's cybersecurity policy regarding PII will define how emails must be exchanged to ensure privacy. If the policy is well designed, the enterprise can ensure their employees are using the best method for sending and receiving emails.

Benefits of Using Email Encryption

The following are the 3 essential benefits of using email encryption to protect sensitive PII:

  1. Greater Privacy-

    Encrypting emails ensure the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information. It ensures that the data is read only by parties who have authorized decrypting tools.

  2. Cost-Effective-

    If the encryption tool is integrated into the company's server, a separate server will not be required for encryption purposes.

  3. Sender Authentication-

    Using encryption in conjunction with a digital signature shows the recipient that the sender is authentic. This can help prevent spoof emails from infiltrating a company's system through an employee's account.

This is how encrypted mails can play a major role in safeguarding sensitive PII. Whether you need cyber liability insurance, business interruption insurance, or other coverage needs, contact the professionals at Reata Insurance Group. We are ready to help you today!

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