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Can Concerns Over Email Security Revive The Fax Industry?

Late last month, nearly 200 million Yahoo email accounts went up for sale on the dark web at a pretty nominal cost of just 3 bitcoins (just over $1700). The dump, which contains the usernames, passwords, date of birth as well as alternate IDs of millions of still-active users, has reignited the discussion on the security of emails.

Late last month, nearly 200 million Yahoo email accounts went up for sale on the dark web at a pretty nominal cost of just 3 bitcoins (just over $1700). The dump, which contains the usernames, passwords, date of birth as well as alternate IDs of millions of still-active users, has reignited the discussion on the security of emails. To be clear, transmission of email communication itself has become quite secure in recent times, thanks to universal encryption adopted by most of the popular email service providers. But database dumps containing confidential details about email users are mostly acquired through phishing attempts and shall continue to exist for as long as one can see. 

A fallout of this growing concern is the possible revival of the fax industry; or more specifically Fax over IP (FoIP). According to service provider XMedius, the company handled nearly 3.2 billion faxes last year - that marks a 30% growth in volume in the healthcare industry, a 20% volume increase in the finance space, and a 10% growth each in government and education. 

FoIP is very similar to email in that the communication happens over the internet. However, there are two reasons why businesses find FoIP far more secure than email. Firstly, the content of the messages are archived physically/locally in the recipient’s end and unlike most of the popular email providers, it does not reside in the cloud. This makes hacking into the archived contents impossible. Secondly, unlike email, it is not possible to serve as an unwilling host for sending junk messages - at least not for long. With email, victims often come to realize that they have been hacked into only after the sender has sent thousands, if not millions, of messages through their server.

These benefits of fax over email has at least partially helped towards pushing for higher eFax adoption among new age businesses. To be fair, email is a lot more cheaper than fax is, and do expect a major chunk of regular communication to continue to happen over emails. However, sharing of customer details, agreements and financial statements are a lot more safer over fax and this is where the shift is likely to happen.

One of the biggest threats here is however with junk fax. Email spam filtering has become quite sophisticated over the past few years and this has helped sustain the value of email technology. This is however not true with fax. Besides the fact that there are no ways to prevent junk faxes from getting sent, the cost of receiving unsolicited messages is higher too - thanks to the ink and toners required to print the messages. This can bring down the value of fax a lot more quickly than it can do to email. The silver lining here is that fax spam comes under the ambit of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and offenders can often be liable to pay as much as $500 for every message they sent.

Email is not going away anytime soon, nor is fax going to be as mainstream as it was in the 90s. However, as corporates realize the loopholes with email security that FoIP can fill, we are likely to see an appreciable and significant migration of email communication that is likely to now happen over fax.

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