Every day, countless businesses and private individuals fax information to other people, businesses, or other entities. The reasons for faxing documents vary, but much of the transmitted information is confidential, which means the sender expects the data to be protected. But, how can anyone be sure if it’s safe to fax personal information? The answer is to use proven strategies for protecting sensitive data when sharing it with others.
The relative security of the information will depend on how it’s transmitted. Faxing using a standard fax machine is generally considered safe, but there are instances when security issues may come up. Many people routinely share sensitive data via email, which is convenient but not secure. Over the last few years, using online fax services has become increasingly common, and most experts agree that online faxing is safe if the correct protocols are followed.
When deciding whether faxing information is safe, it’s important to consider the type of information that’s sent. If the information isn’t overly private, sending it via a less-secure system may be acceptable, but it’s always important to protect your private or sensitive data.
For example, a prospective employer may ask for a copy of a job applicant’s diploma. While that document may not be overly sensitive, consider that it might be used fraudulently if it fell into the wrong hands. Being cautious and transmitting the information using a traditional fax machine or as an online fax is safer than sending it as an email attachment.
In another situation, an individual may find it necessary to send a vendor credit card information. That’s always an issue, as no one wants their credit card number and other information from the card made public. Most security experts would not recommend sending that information via email, but both a traditional fax machine and online faxing should provide an adequate level of security.
Security professionals stress the need to keep your tax returns and social security number confidential. Anyone with access to tax and social security information could easily take advantage of that data, leading to identity theft. In any situation where tax and social security information must be sent to another person or business entity, experts recommend using a standard fax machine or secure online fax.
When it’s necessary to provide personal information, several ways to distribute data are available. How and when personal data is sent will depend on the type of data and who the intended recipient is. Since different types of information create a variety of security issues, it’s always a good idea to consider the best available option to transmit data. However, security experts routinely agree there are a few factors to consider regardless of the transmission type.
First, always limit how the information can be used. Be specific, as the person receiving the data must clearly understand any limitations in how the data can be used. The sender must also limit how the information is shared. Is it permissible to share information with another department or agency? Spell out all conditions and make sure they’re provided to the recipient. It’s far better to be cautious than to regret not limiting the scope of use later. Even if the sender allows the data to be shared, it’s crucial the information be protected by any additional recipient. That’s not always easy, as every person or entity the data is shared with increases the likelihood of security issues developing.
So, what methods can a person use to provide confidential data to another person or a business? The first option would be delivering the information in person. However, security issues are always involved when moving important, confidential information personally. The information could easily be lost or stolen, especially if it’s left unattended at any point during the trip. Moving highly confidential information in person should be avoided whenever possible.
Of course, a sender could always mail the data. However, security experts recommend using care when mailing confidential papers. Use both inner and outer envelopes, make sure there is a return address on both envelopes, and do not note on the outer envelope what’s included. Use a courier when possible or, at a minimum, request a return receipt verifying the documents were delivered to the correct individual.
Using email, as noted earlier, is not generally recommended. While encrypted email systems exist, they are rare, which means the data isn’t usually protected. Even if encrypted email is available, it’s cumbersome to use, and unauthorized individuals may gain access to it if the recipient doesn’t take proper precautions.
Faxing and online faxing are the last and most important options, so it’s important to discuss them separately. Let’s review those transmittal methods and their attributes.
The short answer is yes, faxing via a traditional fax machine still works, but some issues pop up when using this method of transmitting information. First, it’s hard to ensure the person receiving the fax is the individual a sender intended to see it. Even when using a cover sheet specifically stating the fax is for a specific person and is confidential, it’s impossible to guarantee that’s the only person who will have access to the information.
Next, at this point, fewer and fewer people use traditional fax machines, as they are somewhat cumbersome, confined to one spot, and are expensive to operate. In the past, they filled a niche and were invaluable, but that’s no longer the case. Today, more individuals and businesses are moving to online faxing to eliminate the expense and inconvenience involved when using older fax equipment.
While online faxing is relatively new, it’s been around long enough that users find it’s convenient, easy to use, and secure as long as the proper protocols are followed. That means online faxing is a logical alternative to other, older, and less-secure choices. For example, medical records are frequently transferred from one practitioner to another or to an insurer, and those records are now commonly transmitted via online faxes.
Those medical records are protected by strict regulations governing the transmittal process, but other personal records can also be sent (and protected) using online fax platforms. Because security is crucial when faxing personal and sensitive information, senders are always encouraged to follow the appropriate steps needed to ensure the information remains safe.
Online fax services utilize encryption systems so all data remains secure as it moves from one point to another. However, even the best encryption system won’t work correctly if senders (or receivers) fail to follow established security procedures. Here are just a few factors to consider when you decide to move up to online faxing rather than using an old-fashioned fax machine to move information.
· Don’t transmit any data unless you’re absolutely sure it’s being sent to the right person or organization. Make sure the receiver understands your security concerns and is willing to handle your personal information with appropriate care.
· Electronic signatures are a big plus, as documents don’t have to be printed, signed, and returned. Keeping the number of printed personal documents to a minimum reduces the odds that data will fall into the wrong hands.
· Cloud storage enhances security. Today, cloud storage is a secure option to track documents and, at the same time, keep them secure. In addition, those documents can easily be attached to an online fax without having to print copies or scan them.
· Online faxing allows documents to be sent or received using any approved device. That means no one needs to be tied to an office fax machine. When people are busy, having quick access to online faxing makes life much easier.
Sending online faxes isn’t complicated, although the process will vary somewhat from one platform to another. Generally, senders simply log in to their fax account, choose the send fax option, add the recipient’s name, and provide any other fax-specific information. Consider using a provided cover page to reduce security concerns, upload any documents, and hit send.
Online faxing platforms are constantly upgrading their services as the technology evolves and user needs change, and the primary objective is to ensure your personal or business data is always as secure as possible.
While no system is 100 percent safe, online fax services now offer a level of security that rivals any other options. As noted earlier, the caveat is that users must follow the provided safety guidelines to minimize any potential for unauthorized individuals to access private data.
Rather than staying with outdated data transmission strategies that are not evolving to meet the needs of today's users, take the time now to explore the many ways online faxing can meet your personal or business needs. To get started, simply contact an mFax representative to answer any questions you may have about online fax security and how your faxing needs can be met using online faxing.