Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year you’ll be well aware of the furor surrounding the revelations about the extent of the NSA’s mass surveillance program. Amongst the disclosures was the claim that the NSA had been reading the emails of millions of American citizens.
What does the NSA have to do with your business?
But that doesn’t make any difference to a law-abiding entrepreneur, right? If you’re not concerned by the revelations you’ve missed the point – they should come as a stark reminder, if you ever needed one, that your private communications are not as private as you might have thought. Ask yourself this: if competitors had access to your email inbox what would they be able to see? That client list you’ve spent considerable time and effort compiling? Vital information about plans for the launch of your killer app? Information about an exciting new partnership that’s yet to be finalised? If the information you send in emails could prove valuable in the hands of your competition you should at least consider the pros and cons of email encryption.
Pro: Protect sensitive information
I’ve known entrepreneurs so paranoid about sharing the details of their new venture or latest idea that their project doesn’t ever get off the ground. Yet there’s something to be said for keeping your cards close to your chest – if the wrong eyes catch sight of the more pertinent parts of your business plan you could very well experience the gut-wrenching feeling that comes from seeing someone else profiting from your ideas and hard work. Encrypting emails allows you to ditch the paranoia and feel safe sharing that crucial information with the people that are going to help you succeed.
Con: It’s simply not that simple
To use email encryption successfully your recipient will need compatible software. You will need the public key of people you want to communicate securely with, and if they want to send you secure emails they will need your public key. While that might be fine for sending regular emails to a close business partner, it’s impractical and time-consuming for a lot of the communicating you’ll do. In these situations arranging a telephone conversation or even a face-to-face meeting could be a better option.
Pro: No Spam in my Name
Email encryption isn’t just about keeping your messages private – it also allows you to attach a digital signature to every email you send, regardless of whether the recipient has encryption software. This will allow your business contacts, clients, colleagues, and even your grandma to easily spot whether an email is really from you, so nobody gets annoyed when they don’t need to be. You’ll find that a secure digital signature doesn’t only mean people put more trust in your emails – they can also put more trust in you, and that’s always good for business.
Con: Not everything is secure
While the text within your email is secure the header information is not. People may still be able to see who you’re emailing and the subject. You’d think this wouldn’t cause too many problems, but it could still give an insight into your business that you’d rather other people didn’t have.
Doing nothing isn’t an option
When your business interests are at stake using email encryption to securely send and receive sensitive information could be useful, there’s no doubt about it. And it doesn’t have to cost a thing, as free software is easily available. But email encryption won’t always be practical or convenient, so it’s easy to become lax on the subject of privacy. Don’t sleepwalk into a security disaster – ‘it won’t happen to me’ are so often the last words of the entrepreneur that leaves it all to chance. Take control of your future by making sure nobody else can take a look at the most important parts of it.