Is online fax secure? That is one of the most frequently asked questions among people who have yet to find a secure fax service. If you’re still unsure about online faxing, this guide will answer everything you need to know about using an online fax service.
What Is Secure Fax?
A secure fax is a digital document that is encrypted for security over fax servers. A secure fax cannot be intercepted, stolen or accessed by unauthorized third parties. On a secure fax, the numbers of both the sender and the recipient are hidden from view to protect both identities. Secure faxes are protected with strong encryption and impossible to read until they arrive in the hands of recipients.
Many of today’s businesses are employing cloud fax service companies to safely fax sensitive document with utmost confidentiality.
Secure vs. Traditional Fax
When you need to send documents in as safe a format as possible, your best option is to use a secure cloud fax service. Online secure fax services keep documents safe from interception while in transit between senders and receivers as well as while at rest in the cloud. Compared to traditional faxing methods, digital faxing offers the following benefits:
1. Encrypted Systems
Correspondence via digital fax is done over an encrypted system that is far safer than Ethernet, WiFi or phone lines. This makes digital fax a far safer and more secure medium of communication than either traditional fax or email, which both occur over lines that could easily be hacked or intercepted by a third party.
Traditional faxing is done over phone lines, rendering such documents vulnerable in situations where a line has been bugged by an information thief. If, for example, your company is infiltrated by someone who intends to steal information and pass it onto a third party, that individual could possibly bug your phone lines and make it possible for the competing entity to receive incoming and outgoing fax messages.
When matters of safety are taken into consideration, email correspondence is also trumped by the digital faxing option. If someone sends a document to your email inbox, that document is passed through Ethernet cords that are similar in nature to phone lines. Moreover, emails are vulnerable to hackers and data breaches. In the medium of digital fax correspondence, each exchange is protected by layers of security that are impossible to penetrate with phone bugs and email phishing tactics.
With digital faxes, you can choose to receive the documents on an email server or a fax machine. Fruthermore digital fax servers can also deliver your faxes into secure network folders or directly into your business applications. As such, the faxing medium offers a range of choices that email itself simply lacks. If the documents in question are of a sensitive nature, you would definitely want to restrict the exchanges to faxing devices. This, of course, would be the option to take if the documents involve signatures, social security numbers or credit card information.
If the documents are benign and contain no sensitive data, you may opt to receive them as emails or faxes. For faxes that merely concern promotions or party invites, you might wish to receive them as email correspondence.
3. Legally Binding Documents
When it comes to legally binding documents, email remains an unacceptable medium. Given the aforementioned problems associated with email, there are too many risks involved with emailing legal documents. For starters, there is no way for a party that requests a signature to verify the authenticity of a signature when it arrives in the form of an email message.
Legal documents are one of the main reasons why fax, both traditional and digital, has remained popular in the face of email and online correspondence. Fax has always been an accepted medium for legally binding documents because the issuing party can verify that the signature is indeed authentic.
If a document is signed in paper form, the authenticity of the signature is obvious due to the handwriting of the signature itself, whether the document is signed in ink and returned via snail mail or returned via fax. If a document is signed electronically on a digital fax form, the signature is verifiable since the document itself can only be processed on the computing device of the intended recipient of the original blank document. Therefore, faxed documents are generally accepted as legally binding, barring those submitted to government agencies.
4. Hack-Proof Documents
Cyber thieves can hack into email servers and leak the private data of targeted parties. Instances like these have collapsed businesses, ruined careers, destroyed reputations and put people at risk. Despite the efforts of email service providers, who have worked with anti-malware developers to block the intrusions of data thieves, hacking remains a problem for many users. For each new fortification in cybersecurity, hackers up the ante and find new ways to bypass security code.
With faxes, there is no equivalent to the hacking issue because cybercriminals cannot hack into a fax to steal data. You never have to worry about unauthorized foreign parties cracking the code on a fax to access your private info. Simply put, faxes rely on a different type of technology that cannot be intercepted by third parties. Even if an unauthorized party intercepts a fax communication, the thief would not actually be able to steal any data from incoming or outgoing faxes because the data would need to be converted for readability and only the sender or receiver could authorize that task.
5. No Spam
One of the biggest differences between the mediums of fax and email is the flow of spam, a problem solely confined to the email medium. Since the rise of email back in the mid-1990s, the word “spam” has been common parlance among even the most entry-level Internet users. You will inevitably receive spam the moment you give an email address to anyone outside your closest personal confidants.
Thankfully, today’s most broadly used email servers are equipped with functions that filter spam into separate folders, allowing users to avoid the majority of unwanted messages. Still, the very presence of spam as an ongoing problem — one that everyone with an email address has had to deal with at some time or another — points to the very real security issues of email as a medium. The fact that you can end up on spam lists simply for listing your email address on social media, even in the most limited capacity, points to the real and clear danger of exchanging sensitive data through email correspondence.
In the medium of fax correspondence, there is no equivalent to spam. Even if your fax number falls into the hands of a bulk-list hard seller, it is illegal to send junk faxes because doing so uses up the toner and paper of parties at the receiving end. Therefore, digital and traditional fax correspondence is free of the plague of spam or anything of a similar nature.
6. No Blocking
With email, problems can arise with the blocking features that are generally designed to protect users. The blocking features are intended to filter out spam and messages with dangerous attachments. However, various other messages can get scooped into blocking filters due to characteristics that are not always easy to pinpoint. For example, you might send an important business email to a potential client or partner, only for that message to end up in the recipient’s spam folder. While the individual might have enacted steep, indiscriminate filter functions, the problem could easily be down to the wording of the email header.
When important emails end up in other people’s spam filters despite your own best intentions, you could end up missing out on various opportunities. This is one of the other main reasons why faxes are better than email when it comes to business correspondence.
With faxes, there is no such thing as a blocking function because faxing has no equivalent to spam. In the majority of cases, faxes are anticipated and warmly received on the other end. Even when a fax is not expected in advance, it will generally be received well due to the pre-established relations between the two parties. After all, you are unlikely to receive outright junk faxes because the practice is illegal. If someone sends you a fax, it would probably be for something that you already anticipate signing and returning or responding to in some other positive way.
7. Instant Confirmation
One of the biggest advantages of fax correspondence is that you can verify whether the message has been received at the other end. With traditional fax, you are notified the moment the fax is either auto-printed or placed in a queue at the receiving end.
When you send a document via fax, you get the instant assurance that your message or document was received on the other end, regardless of whether the recipient is there to view it at the time in question. In that regard, you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you send a fax because you will have completed your end of the exchange, regardless of whether the other party responds.
Security in Digital Communication
When you use an online fax service, the following practices can help your organization keep security tight:
- Make sure that your fax service provider uses strong encryption to keep your documents protected and secure while they are in transmission or at rest in the cloud.
- If you forward a fax that contains portions of information deemed confidential by the original sender, make sure to crop the info in question before you forward the fax to the third party.
- Before sending a fax, contact the intended recipient to verify they will be available to receive the fax. This step is especially crucial if the fax communication involves a deadline or anything that requires prompt action at the other end.
- If a fax concerns matters of high confidentiality, refrain from sharing said fax with organizations that engage in weak confidentiality practices.
- Enact a retention policy within your organization and among partnered entities to ensure that faxed communications via email, both sent and received, are not retained beyond their intended expiration dates.
- Fax services typically retain logs of outgoing and incoming communications. It is, therefore, crucial to read and understand the privacy protections and retention policies of a service provider.
Cloud-based fax services are safe and efficient as long as the medium is used with the utmost responsibility.
What About Email?
Email has been around since the 1980s and remains popular for many reasons. When compared to the fax, email servers provide quality in the following areas:
1. Password Protected
For basic privacy, email is a safe medium for basic correspondence in most situations. Email servers are protected by login and password prompts that will not grant access if the wrong info is entered into the fields. If you enter the wrong username or password twice in a row, the email server will usually block your IP address until you verify your identify and reset your information, typically through a secondary email address or possibly via phone verification.
With strict login prompts and security protocols, email is generally a secure medium for the majority of daily communications that do not involve legal documents or sensitive business data. That said, the vulnerable aspects of email have rendered the medium inappropriate on all but the most encrypted servers for communications between elected officials and government personnel.
Most of today’s email services protect users with firewall functions that filter out suspect emails and block the activation of attachments that could be dangerous, such as .exe files. Therefore, today’s email platforms are far safer than the early programs that most people used back in the late ‘90s and the early ‘00s when it was not uncommon for extension files to execute and infect hard drives. These days, such problems are rare on most email servers. In fact, few of today’s younger users have ever had a computer crash or OS infection originate from a corrupt email.
All things considered, email is generally viewed unfavorably as a means of communications among serious organizations because of the medium’s checkered past. To a large extent, these attitudes are justified because email servers are not foolproof and some of the biggest horror stories from yesteryear could still occur in isolated scenarios. As such, businesses, government agencies and other high-security organizations refrain from using email servers for all but the most casual and inconsequential correspondence.
The advent of mobile text messaging, which is commonly practiced among work colleagues, has largely replaced email as a casual means of communication in most professional settings.
In many ways, email is one of the most private mediums of communication between people who are not in the same room. While you can talk to someone on a phone, other people nearby might overhear your side of the conversation. You could exchange messages on an online forum or on social media, but all such posts could easily be seen by other people who use those platforms, even if you use high-privacy settings. With email, the only person who sees the message is the user with access to the inbox in question.
In this regard, email correspondence has the advantage over faxing because a fax could potentially be seen by anyone with access to the machine at the receiving end. If you run a busy office space where dozens of people from various departments pass by the fax receptor each hour, no communication sent via conventional fax could really be considered private.
Granted, if you are the only person with access to a particular fax, the privacy risks would be less substantial on either side of any faxing correspondences. However, that gets beyond the intended purpose of faxing, which is generally used as a means for two parties to instantly exchange secure and often legally binding documents across great distances.
Basically, faxing has the advantage over email in terms of security, whereas email has the upper hand in terms of privacy. If you need to send sensitive data or a signed document to someone in a different department, building, city, state or country, use fax. If you want to reveal something touchy about your personal life to a close friend afar, use email.
Why Use Fax Instead of Email?
In all the debates about fax vs. email security, most people agree that faxing is the better option for documents of a sensitive or highly classified nature. Email lacks the safety of fax for the following reasons:
1. Email Attachments
Emails can come with dangerous attachments that are liable to infect your computer and possibly spread to other machines linked to the same network. If you work in an office and receive an email purported to be of interest to your business, it could possibly have a virus attached that will execute on your hard drive the moment you open the message.
The scary thing about email attachments is how they are sometimes difficult to spot. Even if you do realize that an email has some type of malware attached, it could be impossible to stop the infection by the time it comes to your attention.
These days, people are largely desensitized to the threat of harmful email attachments, since it is often assumed that Windows will detect such problems in advance and suppress the unauthorized execution of a file. Therefore, employees are often naive about the potential threat of email viruses. Moreover, certain types of malware are designed to run in the background of a machine and steal info, unbeknownst to the user of an infected machine.
Faxed documents, by contrast, never pose such a threat because there is no way to attach malware to a fax.
2. Email Hacking
Another major risk of email correspondence is the possibility of third-party hacking. If you and a colleague are discussing confidential business information via email, those messages could be accessed by an unauthorized party and leaked into the wrong hands. It could either be a rival within your company or a competitor looking to harm your business in some way.
When email accounts are hacked, the intrusion is virtually impossible to detect. Most victims of email hacking only learn of the situation the hard way, such as when information is leaked to the Internet. Depending on the sensitivity of the information in question, an email leak could cause a company to unravel.
With secure digital faxing, there is no risk of third-party hacking because the information in transit would merely consist of unreadable code that can only be translated on the machine of the recipient.
Another major risk of email is the possibility of phishing, where a message from an ostensibly friendly source arrives with fetching links. The moment you click one of these links, popup prompts appear on your screen that ask for basic personal info in a misleading but seemingly benign manner. Even though many email users are wise to such gambits in this day and age, many people still fall for this trap. Your company might have a naive employee who takes the bait and unwittingly puts the whole network at risk.
In some cases, programs will open that take over your computer and execute inescapable prompt boxes the moment you open the message. Phishing is basically designed to access vital company data, such as contact lists, credit card numbers and the passwords of program account holders. In a worst-case scenario, a phishing incident could lead to a data breach of epic proportions, the likes of which would cause you to lose customers by the thousands.
Thankfully, phishing is not possible with secure digital faxing.
Secure Cloud Fax Service From Softlinx
Secure fax is becoming the most accepted way for B2B communication. If you constantly engage in fax communications to and from your customers and contacts, you should definitely employ the services of a cloud fax service. Contact Softlinx for a demo or get a quote.