Is email a safe communication channel?

During Cyber Security Awareness Month, our cyber security experts answered the most frequently searched questions on securing digital communications, working safely from home and eliminating the biggest cyber risks. In video and written format. 

Today: is email a safe communication channel? 

Rick Goud (CIO, Zivver) explains: "Whether email is a safe communication channel really depends, because normal email is not."

"Normal email lacks functionalities to prevent human error (such as sending privacy sensitive information to the wrong 'Kevin'), to encrypt data while the email is in transit, to encrypt emails while they are stored at a data center, to limit the impact of a data leak, and to authenticate whether or not people have access or should have access to your data."

Email originates from the 70s

This is because email was created in the 1970s. A time when security did not matter and was an afterthought. And that is why traditional email is not secure enough.

So why are we still using email en masse, you might ask yourself? Because fortunately there are measures that organisations can take to secure their email more effectively.

Taking measures to make email safe 

However, there are measures that organisations can take to use email as a safe communication channel. That is either from a process perspective so that they can manage their own systems and improve security there. Or they can work with what Gartner calls an 'Email Data Protection Specialist.' Companies specialised in helping organisations to better protect their email data.

In the Netherlands in 2019, the first country in the world where a standard for secure email was adopted, allows people to officially use email as a way to share sensitive personal information. A breakthrough which means that email can be made secure enough to share that type of sensitive information.

So the answer is yes, email can be a safe communication channel. If you take the appropriate measures as a company.

Download the 'Safeguard sensitive information while working from home' e-book.

Cyber Security Awareness - Question and Answer (Q&A)

Curious about our other 'Cyber Security Awareness' Question & Answer articles? View all Cyber Security Awareness Q&A videos on our YouTube channel.


Written by

Kevin Lamers

Originally published on October 8, 2020

Last update on January 6, 2021