Secure Communication – Utilising Secure Encrypted Mail Technology and Passwords

A heightened awareness of the rules around GDPR and its consequences has ensured that the Advice community has increasingly looked to embrace the need to communicate securely with any party, in respect of the clients’ personal and sensitive personal data.

It is well known that larger firms have paid incredibly high fines, such as Amazon’s fine of more than $700 million for a cookies policy that contravened European GDPR principles.

This short paper considers when you should think about looking to employ encrypted mail, alternative secure communication such as peer-to-peer (portals), and the importance of password strength and integrity.

The Case for using encrypted mail.

At this point, you may be expecting a paragraph describing the best mail system and approach. But the case for using encryption is based in the main on human beings and their propensity for making errors in judgement. Errors are often unintentional but would not be forgiven by the data regulators.

How many emails are sent (internally and externally) with personal client data? How many clients does the business receive emails from that contain important personal data, often of a sensitive nature?

The advice business has a responsibility to both it and its clients to allow the secure flow of data between these parties. Particularly as more and more of the relationship with the client is carried out in a remote environment. Good practice around the use of encrypted email will help greatly reduce the risk of human error.

How hard is it to obtain and install an encrypted mail system?

The secure email systems look to integrate into Microsoft Outlook (as a minimum) and build their functionality around what you already do and already know.

The reality is that you should look for a proven well-tested system that is able to support you through their implementation and answer any questions you and your staff may have.

The installation is usually very quick but should always be done in partnership with your IT support provider.

As a footnote to this section, it is important to add that in terms of security typical Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, etc. were set up for personal messaging. They were not set up for a business to use to send data securely. If you are doing so, please speak to your IT support for greater clarification and ensure that you are satisfied it supports the security levels you need. Most of these operators now also offer a business email account as a more secure option.

What exactly does it do?

Once you have created the email you would receive a pop-up window that asks, “how would you like to send it” with the choice of unsecure or securely.

Once you have selected securely the email is encoded and a link is sent to the recipient asking them to provide the appropriate security to obtain access.

Once access has been secured it then means that the recipient can also return the email securely to the originator.

Today we are seeing two-factor authentication on the rise and the use of approval for spending through application technology. By comparison, secure email encryption is very straightforward, and in general terms it is.

Peer to Peer Comms

In recent years we have seen the rise of peer-to-peer technology through portals. Effectively using a portal means that the client is on the same system as you. They will have accessed the portal with their username and password just like yourself, so messages can be sent and received in real-time. If the client is not on the portal when the link is sent through then a push notification is sent to their preferred method of contact, namely email/SMS.

It is easy to see how the use of peer-to-peer communication will grow, but whereas not everyone who is computer literate will use a portal, it is fair to say that the vast majority of clients will use email, so also enabling secure email becomes a must for any business.

The myth of the client barrier

Some businesses who have not adopted any secure method of communication to this point, often cite the lack of willingness of their clients to use such a means of engagement.

It is fair to say that COVID has put to bed many of the myths about remote client contact. In turn, this went a long way to dispel the belief that clients would not like to use secure communication methods over the internet.

The opposite is probably true now. I have an approval process using my banks app for less usual or larger purchases or gifts, something I am glad to do for peace of mind. In fact, as awareness in the client community grows, I would now expect my financial advice firm to be able to offer me other ways of gathering and transmitting my data securely and remove the possibility of it being compromised.

Training and ongoing awareness

It is important to invest in the standards you would expect from your staff. Mistakes will be made, but good practice helps minimise the mistakes and ensure that those that are made could be less consequential.

Be sure that they understand when to use encryption and how to use it properly. Inform them of the consequences, in particular of the reputational and monetary effects of a data breach.

Good Password Protocol

Alongside the use of email encryption, the use of a strong password protocol will also help ensure that the chance of someone accessing your data and communicating with clients/third parties is minimised.

There is software available that randomly generates passwords and stores them securely so that you can utilise them when logging on. This also means that the user will never know them, relying on their main username and password/bio-metric security routine when they initialise their log-on at the start of their day.

This should forever remove the need for post-it notes with passwords or easy-to-guess ones!

Good password protocol accompanied by the utilisation of a secure means of emailing your clients and third parties will help significantly reduce the risk of cyber security issues. It gives the clients the comfort of knowing that their advice practice has taken significant measures to ensure the safe transmission of important personal data between the parties involved.

If this is still something you are yet to do, I would urge you to do so.

Our Cyber Security Month is Supported By Our Sponsors

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