"I’m Sorry, But Your Email is Not a Safe Place”
The truth is your email is not a secure place to send or store sensitive information, such as passwords, big exports of other people's data or anything that's been protected by any privacy laws (especially thinking of medical professionals, teachers and business owners here). There’s a few important things you can do to keep your confidential information safe:
1. Find Out Who Has Access to Your Account
Companies read your email, usually because you told them to, but sometimes because they’re evil. Turns out you can (and probably already have) given companies the ability to read your inbox, with cases where actual people from these companies are reading them. Remember all that fine print you didn't read, and then hit accept on?
"Google received plenty of criticism for having computers scan every Gmail email to deliver targeted ads. Google stopped that practice a year ago, but a Wall Street Journal investigation shows there are plenty of apps that have access to your email, and some of them feed some of your emails to real humans." - Source
There are some good and legitimate reasons why companies would have that level of access. For example, you may have given Apple access to your Gmail account via your iPhone so that it can access Google Calendar, Google Contacts, etc. However, if you haven’t checked, it’s quite possible there will be a few companies that you don’t recognize who have access. Fortunately, it’s super simple to clean up who gets access and who doesn’t. While logged into your Google account, click on: myaccount.google.com/permissions?pli=1
You’ll be able to see what companies have permission to access your email. If you don't recognize one, google it and see who they are. If you don't trust them, simply deny their access.
2. Use a Cloud Services Like Google Docs to Mail Sensitive Information
Google Docs is a great tool to use if you need to share confidential information via email. You can add your sensitive information to a document or spreadsheet, and then use their file sharing permissions to share the file. When you choose a specific email address, the only person who will then have access to that file must be logged into their Google account to view the document. You can stop, modify or change who the document is shared with using these instructions.
3. Use Gmail’s Confidentiality Mode...Sometimes
The confidentiality mode does not restrict Google’s access to the email, so should still not be used for highly sensitive or regulated information. When composing an email there are several icons along the bottom. If you hover over them you’ll see one that says Turn Confidential Mode On/Off. This is a useful feature if you’d like to restrict how long the person receiving your message will have access to your email. It can also require the sender use a passcode to access the email, just make sure to do so with caution.
4. Avoid Sending Confidential Information
Don’t send people your passwords and sensitive things! Even if you trust them. Seriously, this is a big deal- Simply avoid emailing confidential information that has been attached or entered into the body of a message. It's not about who you’re giving the information to. It's all the ways it can be grabbed in transit, or accidentally forwarded, and plenty of other ways that things can go wrong. There are tools that can manage and safeguard you when sending sensitive information such as passwords.
5. Use a Password Manager to Share Passwords
If you just need to share a password once or twice, the previous solution works great. But if you own or work for a company that needs to share passwords, I’d highly recommend using a password manager, such as LastPass to share and manage your passwords.
Here at FruitStand, we love technology, but we also know it can be super stressful, especially when it’s not working as expected. Maybe we can help? Feel free to tell us a few your tech woes, especially those you think might make a great blog article, and we’ll do our best to bring you some peace and clarity.