Sending an email to wrong recipient.

The Privacy Risk No One Talks About


2020 is undoubtedly the year of “COVID-19.” The pandemic forced companies to allow most employees to work from home (WFH).

WFH employees are, in many cases, using their personal devices. They are more easily distracted in the home environment. The pressure to complete assignments on time is causing security to take a back seat.

When we think of security risks and data breaches, malicious emails, SPAM, phishing, and drive-by attacks come to mind. These are big problems, but there is one that is very common but not openly admitted to and discussed.

Misdirected Email, The Risk Few Discuss

A U.K. study shows that 68% of employees admitted to sending work emails in error. Another survey found that over 60% of U.S. respondents polled said they sent emails to the wrong person.

Businesses use email as their primary source of written communication. The amount of confidential data contained in emails is enormous. The potential for harm is high.

Why Errant Emails Are Big Security Risks

You would be surprised what people put into emails. I’ve seen people include social security numbers, credit card info, personal names and addresses, medical data, etc.

Errant emails containing confidential data are a problem for three reasons:

  1. The information can be used for Identity Theft.
  2. Even if the recipient ignores the information, private data is now in the possession of an unauthorized person.
  3. Such data leakages are violations of Privacy Laws, both in the U.S. and abroad. The legal exposure is very high and can be very costly for a business.

Awareness Is The Key

Technology has come a long way. It can help with this issue, but it can’t prevent us from pressing the send button.

Never email financial information, medical data, social security numbers, etc. The danger of that information falling into the wrong hands is too great. Please don’t do it. Find a more secure way to transmit that information such as an encrypted email service or a secure file-sharing application. However, before using them, make sure that your account is secured such as using multi-factor authentication if possible (in case of a breach), and that the transmitted data is encrypted end-to-end.

The auto-complete feature is the main cause of misdirected emails because many users don’t check before sending. The only way to solve this is to double-check the address before hitting the send button! Proper training to make employees aware of the ramifications of sending emails to the wrong person is key. One mistake can cost your business big time!

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