Consider following three claims:
1. Your e-mail is not private.
2. Your e-mail might not be sent to intended recipient.
3. Your e-mail can continue to exist even after you delete it.
The following article explains truth of these alarming statements and why you should be concerned if you're sending confidential messages by e-mail.
1. The privacy problem ---------------------- When you send an e-mail message from computer A to computer B it passes through one or more machines (C, D, E, etc.) on its journey. At each step along way, an unscrupulous individual with access to intermediate machine has opportunity to read -- or even alter -- your e-mail message.
Within a private intranet (i.e. a company network), such privacy violations could occur if:
* IT staff with access to mail server were unscrupulous;
* unauthorised personnel had access to mail server (e.g. if someone walked away from server without logging out); or
* security measures designed to keep hackers out of mail server were insufficient or were not enforced rigorously.
When e-mail is sent over Internet (a public network) risks become notably higher. If you send an e-mail message from Sydney to New York it may pass through half-a-dozen machines on its journey, *each* of which are subject to risks mentioned above. Thus hazards accumulate with each extra machine that message passes through.
2. The identity problem ----------------------- Another risk with e-mail is that you really don't know who will receive it. This happens because some people choose to forward (i.e. divert) their e-mail to another person or authorise another person to read it for them. For example, if you send a message to a senior colleague, remember that this person's e-mail might be read by his or her secretary or stand-in. That can be awkward.
I know of a case where a manager sent an e-mail report to his CEO describing a clerical officer's poor performance. The CEO had, unfortunately, forwarded his e-mail to his acting secretary, who that day happened to be (you guessed it) clerical officer in question. The clerical officer read critical report, and all manner of morale problems ensued.