Why it is Important to Redact Emails Right
Your phone buzzes; you reach into your pocket, bring it inches from your face, and notice that you have just received an email. While most people would resume their day after a quick glance or even roll their eyes at the fact, you smile.
You open this email with excitement because it’s from your now new boss; you just got the news that you are hired at the job you interviewed for, and alongside is some private data about your salary, title, social security number confirmation, and more Personal Identifiable Information (PII). You are more than thrilled, and with that adrenaline, you forward the message to your family and enjoy the rest of your day.
Sending and receiving electronic mail or emails has contributed a lot to our ways of communication; it’s a perfect balance between casual texting and a professional letter handwritten with feathers and ink. Email outdated the internet with the first emailing application being used in the early 1970s. Since then, communication via email skyrocketed, usage heightened, and so did the risk of jeopardizing your information.
As we may have all experienced before, sending an email doesn’t always come with an undo button. The chances of completely removing something from your email’s recipient after the message has reached their inbox are very unlikely.
How does E-mail really work in the background?
When you send an email using an email service, you are sending it to an outgoing mail server, which is the name after the @ sign, and it uses the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol to send the message. Once your email server establishes a connection with the recipient’s email server, it is able to store the message in the mailbox; this all happens in a matter of seconds.
The idea of email came about when computers began to connect with each other on the same network. The man responsible for the first email to ever be sent is Ray Tomlinson, the same individual who coined it using the format of user@domain. When email first emerged, it was mainly used by computer scientists and researchers and then by businesses and individuals when it became more widely available.
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to use any online service without providing an email to attach your account. Some people even have multiple emails deliberately separating business and personal email communication. With that being said, there should be no surprise that almost 4 billion people have email, and over 300 billion emails are sent or received every day. Doesn’t that make you wonder if all that information being sent back and forth is secured?
Email and Safety
Besides partaking in password good practices and utilizing dual authentication to sign into your email accounts, there’s also a silent bodyguard ensuring the privacy of your data and that is encryption. Encryption is essentially a disguise for your private information, now called ciphertext, because the value of your information remains, but it is encoded in a way that unauthorized persons won’t be able to understand. It will be decrypted to plaintext for the properly authorized user, of course, to be able to use email for its true purpose.
This lets you rest assured that the good news you received via email that was forwarded to your family members is secure. Encrypting and decrypting are called cryptography, and the formulas used to make it happen is called ciphers.
There are many different types of encryption; for example, Gmail and Yahoo use Transport Layer Security or TLS email encryption to keep email data safe during transmission. So if you received your good news via Gmail, your data is first encrypted on your device using symmetric encryption, transmitted over the internet to get to the recipient’s email server, which then uses the same symmetric key to decrypt the message to be able to read it.
This means if you have a man-in-the-middle attack, the act of someone interfering with your message as it’s traveling to the recipient, they would not be able to read the information, therefore maintaining your privacy and confidentiality. All your salary, social security, and remaining PII in that email are safe.
Symmetric encryption is faster, simpler, and more popular to use than its counterpart, asymmetric encryption. While symmetric encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt your message, asymmetric encryption uses two different keys, one public and one private key, that the recipient will generate.
The recipient will only share the public key, ensuring that the private key that only they obtain will be the only way to decrypt any message sent to them. This means with asymmetric encryption, the message you send will be encrypted using the recipient’s public key, and only the recipient can decrypt it using their private key. As you can probably tell, this offers a higher level of security but would perform poorly if used for large amounts of data, which, as previously stated, is what emails produce.
If you want to forward an email with sensitive information in it removed or redacted, you have several options on how to do so. One method is printing, blacking out, and scanning the email to send to a recipient with the sensitive information blacked out.
Another option that most may not be aware of is using a redaction software with capabilities of redacting PII, specifically from emails, already implemented. Most people are aware of redaction being used to maintain privacy, like blurring out faces or on physical documents as well, but not everyone will mention email redactions as another essential variable, understandably so.
Document redaction and email redactions have a lot in common, so they can easily fall under the same umbrella of “document redaction”, but this generalization may eliminate some critical factors about email redaction that redaction software should emphasize. Yes, both document and email redaction work to protect privacy, but the file types and format differ, with emails typically transmitted in standard email format like multipurpose internet mail extension or MIME.
Document and emails also both can contain words alongside images, but emails also have content such as direct links and attachments that call for a specific capability from a redaction software to be able to properly read it, extract it, then redact it.
Email Readers in a Redaction Software
A good Email redaction software needs to be able to read different types of email files like EML, MSG, PST, INBOX, and others, then provide the right tools to search, filter, collect, and organize data from the email files and export it into one PDF file to start redaction.
Outlook, for example, uses PST files to store email information, attachments, contacts, calendar events, and more; the user will be able to import the PST file into the redaction software with the ability to read them, filter what the user needs from them, then to accurately and effectively identify and redact sensitive information.
When the user adds a PST file to the redaction software, like CaseGuard, it will give the user the ability to search through thousands of emails and easily filter data by searching for specific keyword(s) and/or by the sender, receiver, subject, attachments, or dates. This amount of flexibility is a great advantage when it comes to preparing your emails to start the redaction process.
This way, the user will not need to use any other tools to convert PST to PDF or get the attachments separately. The user can extract everything they need from their PST files with the redaction software as the first step to start email redaction.
Other features that allow redaction software to be efficient when redacting emails are features such as pattern redaction. Pattern redaction allows users to select what kind of pattern they want the software to detect, for example, emails, and redact with the press of a button. Users also have the ability to use template redaction capabilities if it is available to them.
Template redactions are when the redaction software allows you to save the placement of your redaction as a template so it can easily be repeated on selected projects. If you, as a user, build a template for email redaction by selecting to redact information that is always in the same location on the file, for example, emails are always at the top, signatures below, etc, you are able to do the redaction once and reuse the template to speed up the process of redacting your email files.
To take it a step further, redaction software like CaseGuard allows you to create a template based on AI analysis options meaning you can select your templates to not only follow your manually drawn redactions based on placement but have that template to also always search for specific PII such as names, phone numbers, social security numbers and more. You can speed up the process of redaction by using the CaseGuard Bulk Email redaction feature as well.
We all now feel comfortable with communication via email and may sometimes forget the importance of securing the information we input in these messages. Whether it be court cases, business data, or personal information, it is best to practice securing your data. While printing and blacking out your printed emails is still an option, it still leaves so much room for error and potential exposure of sensitive information. Trusting a redaction software that has multiple capabilities and flexible options for redacting emails is a much better option for those seeking to redact private information properly.