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E-mail Privacy (or lack thereof!)

Have you or anyone you know sent information via e-mail to an accountant, financial advisor or lawyer? Have you ever e-mailed your credit card information to a friend? Do you know that e-mail communication is open communication that can be intercepted by anyone? That means that when you send sensitive or private information via e-mail, that information can easily be read by someone you don't even know. The good news is that you can maintain the convenience of electronic communication without sacrificing privacy.

When an e-mail is sent, the message is transferred between various servers before it reaches its destination. It is during this travel time that the e-mail can be intercepted. As e-mails are sent "plain-text", they are available for anyone to see in much the same way as CB Radio transmissions are available to anyone with a CB radio.

If you want to safe-guard your information and still utilize the vehicle of e-mail, you have two options. First, you can avoid including any sensitive or private information in an e-mail. This would include account numbers, credit card numbers, private activities, etc. The second option is to secure your e-mails. E-mails can be secured by using certificate based security, whereby the entire e-mail message and all attachments are encrypted. In addition, certificates can be used to digitally sign messages, providing a good guarantee that the message originated from the source stated and that it has not been modified after creation. It is important to keep in mind that simply using encryption and certificates does not guarantee your messages are private. The certificates must be protected by strong and complex passwords and your e-mail program and encryption system need to be configured to use decent protocols that can't easily be broken by automatic systems.

If you notice that someone with whom you are communicating is sending you private data via e-mail, it is best to ask them to stop until they are able to send the message encrypted. After all systems are configured properly, you can enjoy the convenience of e-mail without having to worry about privacy.
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