Of all ways to compromise data inadvertently, sending misdirected emails can turn into a...
Of all ways to compromise data inadvertently, sending misdirected emails can turn into a devastating mistake in a worst-case scenario.
At the time of this writing, new data from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office identified misdirected emails as the most likely cause of data breaches.
Yet, even as businesses spend an incredible amount of resources to safeguard networks, cybersecurity remains a weakness across the board.
So, to give you a general idea of how misdirected emails occur, this article discusses the essential elements of such a persistent, vexing cybersecurity risk.
Types of misdirected emails
Simply put, a misdirected email happens when you make an honest mistake and send an email to the wrong recipient; you could also send an email with incorrect or redundant information that leads to digital identity theft.
Most often, these errors result from human (mis)behavior, but despite substantial investment towards cybersecurity training, email mistakes carry on, such as:
- Mistakes when replying to all
- Spelling errors
- Bcc miscues
- Missing or incorrect file attachments
- Autocomplete errors
To give more context, here's a brief word on each threat.
Mistakes when replying to all
When you accidentally reply to all, you can expose private information to the masses if the reply goes out to the entire organization or, worse, to thousands of people.
The reply-to-all function saves an enormous amount of time, but one mistake is all it takes to misuse the feature.
A spelling error doesn't appear to be all that risky on its surface, but when speaking of cybersecurity, a common miscue can spiral into a serious privacy breach.
The last thing you want to happen is sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient simply because you weren't diligent in spelling.
Sending a blind carbon copy is another fantastic feature that allows you to hide how many people received the same email.
But when you accidentally use “CC” instead of Bcc, you can readily expose private email addresses to a significant number of people.
Missing or incorrect file attachments
Mistakes when attaching files are yet another easily avoidable yet standard error. The primary risk is that private information will be in a separate document, significantly raising the amount of damage an identity thief can do.
Errors with autocomplete are arguably the worst because it's all too easy to trust the feature and forget to double-check for accuracy.
The problem is that repeated mistakes will lead to more autocomplete errors if you don't catch them before they compound the issue.
What's the harm in an honest mistake?
Aside from the moral responsibility to safeguard privacy, the primary harm in sending a misdirection is receiving a hefty fine from the authorities.
One mistake can cost a company millions of dollars, and in the US alone, data breaches average $8.19 million in losses per incident.
Even worse, the damage to a company's brand can be immeasurable if the public perceives it as irresponsible and negligent.
Still, the good news is that misdirected email is a readily avoidable faux pas with the proper training and cybersecurity best practices in place.
To learn more about how to shield your organization from data breaches, contact us for a consultation.