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Monday, 22 September 2014

E-Mail and security

Email is a staple of modern living; it would be very difficult to get things done without it.  We have all been shocked when suddenly email is not available due to some technical or mechanical failure.  This communication media however, is not secure; I liken sending email to writing the test on a post it note and placing it outside the street door, making it available to anyone who cares to read it.

Perhaps we should all encrypt our email?   This would bring the internet to its knees as the additional data would cripple the system.

Perhaps we should send our attachments as encrypted documents?  This is better but relies on a method of decryption.  Sadly I have seen encrypted attachments accompanied by the key in the body of the email, rendering it totally useless.

Perhaps we shouldn’t send anything sensitive by email at all?  This is the safest option but in practice totally unworkable.

We use a system which has proved successful:

We encrypt an attachment using bitlocker or similar rather than a straight password protection.  It is very easy to delete a password from a protected document.  Encryption to 256 AES ( Advanced Encryption System) renders the attachment pretty secure.  I say pretty secure because nothing is 100% secure, but the possible number of keys is  1x1x1077 a truly enormous number.

 We send the encrypted attachment by email and then send a SMS message to the recipient with the decryption key.  Using this method the attachment cannot be readily opened without the key and the Key is useless without the encrypted file.

Clearly anything that is classified should not be sent over the internet but over a secure channel and also encrypted.

The most effective way to pass highly sensitive information is by hand only and the receipt signed over to authorised persons only.

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