Fax vs. Email: Which Is More Secure?

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There are two ways for organizations to send and receive important information electronically —  fax or email. But the convenience of sending a quick email could come with a price. Many organizations rely on email for fast transmission, but there are potential security pitfalls to sending information via the internet.

Privacy and security are the most important factors to consider when choosing between fax or email to send data. Learn more about whether you should select email or encrypted faxes to send confidential information securely.

Is Fax More Secure Than Email?

One of the significant advantages of sending and receiving protected information via email is speed. But is speed worth an insecure transmission?

Hackers have far more opportunities to intercept information sent via email over a public internet network than that in a fax sent via a phone line. Emails need to pass through servers and firewalls, leaving them vulnerable to interception and compromise from anyone with access to those servers. Unless you send the email via a private internet server, your message could be susceptible to a cyberattack — and there is no definitive way to know whether the recipient’s server is protected in the same manner.

For example, phishing is a common way hackers gain access to private email accounts. A hacker will send a legitimate-looking email with an internal link. Once the recipient opens the link, spyware, viruses or malicious software can enter the computer or mobile device. Once a hacker has access to an email address, other associated email accounts can quickly become compromised as well unless a two-factor authentication system is in place.

Is Fax Hack-Proof? 

While there is no way to completely eliminate the chance of unauthorized personnel accessing your information, there is much less chance of a fax being hacked because it delivers via a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) — not the internet. It is far easier for a hacker to invite someone to click a fraudulent link than to hack into a PSTN. And even if a hacker successfully intercepts a fax, decoding it will prove extremely challenging.

There’s also more reward to accessing an email account, whether acquiring the information inside the account or accessing other associated accounts. A single breached email account could lead to further breaches elsewhere, creating a snowball effect.

Even if an unauthorized individual intercepted a fax, they would only have access to the connected devices. In short, hackers are far less likely to go to the trouble of trying to breach the security of a fax.

Is Fax Secure?

If a covered entity uses proper technical safeguarding techniques — such as two-factor login authentication and cover sheets — sending information via fax is secure. “Faxsploit,” or fax hacking, may occur because printers and computers connect to the machine by an internet connection, but recent advancements in fax security include private servers and firewalls to mitigate this risk.

How Does Email Fall Short Regarding Security?

So, is fax safer than email? We would argue yes! In addition to email being more vulnerable to cyberattacks, sending protected information via this method has a few other disadvantages:

  • Spam: Occasionally, an encrypted email might land in a spam folder or mistakenly be reported as spam by the recipient. Then, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) might block future communications from your email address.
  • Tracking: Unfortunately, there is no way to track whether an email has reached its intended destination. Email is generally reliable, but user tracking is vital if you digitally send and receive healthcare-related or PCI-DSS-protected information.
  • Compliance: Paper trails for federal audits are crucial if your organization handles electronic protected health information (ePHI) or PCI-DSS-protected data. Emails do not automatically track user inquiries, retrievals or deletions — nor do they maintain system logs to facilitate federal compliance.

Email vs. Fax: Which Should You Choose? 

If your organization handles sensitive financial or protected health information, you need a fast, secure and reliable electronic data transmission solution. However, an email isn’t the quickest way to transmit information, nor is a PSTN connection the most secure.

Cloud-based faxing using Fax Over Internet Protocol (FoIP) enables organizations to fax via their secure internet phone system. An internet phone system is truly secure and provides end-to-end encryption. Cloud faxing makes web-based faxing fast, reliable and safe. Most importantly, it facilitates federal compliance and information privacy.

Why Is Cloud Faxing More Secure Than Fax and Email?

Cloud faxing is safer than email thanks to its advanced security measures, and it offers several additional benefits as well:

  • Compliance: Cloud-based faxes handled by an SSAE-16 audited hosting provider makes faxing easy and HIPAA and PCI-DSS-compliant.
  • Privacy: When it comes to confidentiality, email falls short. Emails are vulnerable to hacking and physical faxes can fall into the wrong hands if left in the delivery tray too long. Many Cloud-based fax providers boast the benefits of secured networks, authentication procedures like multifactor authentication and AES 256-bit encryption protocols.
  • Inexpensive and easy to use: With features like email-to-fax and print-to-fax, plus an intuitive web portal, cloud faxing is quick and easy. It requires no hassle, maintenance, or expenses like ink, paper and toner. All you need is a secure internet connection and a computer or mobile device.

However, not all cloud-based faxing providers boast the necessary features to facilitate the most private, secure and compliant form of faxing. When choosing a cloud fax service provider, you’ll want to check for the following:

  • Password protection: Multifactor authentication will protect your faxes even if an outside party does happen to gain access to your login credentials.
  • Virus scanning:  Faxes sent and received online can carry viruses just like an email, so virus and malware screening is essential.
  • File encryption: Encryption defends your faxes against transmission interception, ensuring they deliver securely.
  • SSL certificates: SSL certificates create a secure browser connection for a protected fax delivery using the internet.
  • Standard compliance: Your cloud-based provider should be an SSAE-16 audited provider and meet the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) standards.
  • System logs: Tracking helps you monitor inquiries and retrievals for a convenient paper trail in the case of auditing.

Choose Secure, Compliant Cloud-Based Faxing With Softlinx

Secure cloud fax services are the future for digitally transmitting protected information, no matter the industry. With ReplixFax, you can easily send a fax via the cloud in a few simple steps.

Our cloud-based faxing solutions are convenient and reliable — and they boast all the features your organization needs to send private, secure and compliant faxes. We offer standard support services and 24/7 live recovery support from a dedicated engineer for critical events.

Contact us today to learn more about migrating your faxing to the cloud!

About Hikyu Lee

In 1993, Hikyu Lee established Softlinx, a prominent provider of Internet fax messaging and electronic documentary delivery systems, catering to medium and large-sized businesses. Before initiating Softlinx, Dr. Lee held the roles of president and CEO at Samsung Software America, Inc., an affiliate of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. His earlier career includes significant management and leadership roles at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Bellcore. Dr. Lee's academic credentials include a Master's and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Princeton University, along with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Seoul National University.

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