· 83% of the UK population see no harm in reading an email without permission, but consider the physical opening of a letter to be an intrusion of privacy
· Over half of those questioned have accessed an email and then marked it “unread” to avoid detection
· When sending confidential correspondence, for security reasons 79% said they would post rather than email the document
· Research reveals that 93% of people would prefer to send an email if their security was not compromised
London, 21st October 2002: Indicii Salus, the London-based Internet security company, today revealed that the UK public has a greater respect for the privacy of posted letters than they do emails. Of those questioned, 83% believe that emails are “free to be read”, but would not consider opening a sealed envelope without invitation. However, once opened, over a quarter see a letter as fair game for public viewing.
While happy to use email for sending general innocuous messages, 79% said they would still post or courier confidential or urgent private documents, believing that email is neither secure nor 100% reliable. However, a massive 93% said they would prefer to use email if the communication could be comprehensively and quickly secured – citing it as a more cost-effective and speedy communications tool.
Prying eyes are most interested in other people’s personal finance details according to the research. Of those admitting to have secretly looked at a colleague’s email, 36% said they were most interested in salary review and bonus details. Monitoring the number of personal emails sent and received by staff is also a popular snooping activity, particularly by managers. On 23% of occasions, this has caused animosity between the spying colleague and the emailer. Relationships, particularly emailed arguments between boy/girlfriend also make “great reading” and are the most likely type of email to be forwarded to others.
And in many businesses, the IT department – with its ‘all seeing eye’ over emails – becomes the most respected source of company information. Employees have been known to ask IT staff questions ranging from ‘what will the pay review be’ to ‘is it true that we’re about to be taken over’.
“Most people recognise the speed of email and relish it for its convenience factor. However, the perception remains that post is more secure and people and businesses are prepared, unnecessarily, to pay the cost and bear the time for peace of mind. The major reasons supporting postal services are the protections offered by Royal Mail by-laws and the fact that it is easy to spot a letter or parcel has been opened by someone other than the intended recipient,” explained Paran Chandrasekaran, CEO, Indicii Salus.
“However, there is evidence to show that many letters and parcels, whether marked confidential or not, go missing in transit or are tampered with before they reach the recipient. The major benefit of email encryption is that if it is intercepted by anyone en route, it cannot be read and remains the property of only those intended to view it. But without installing basic encryption software, an email is about as confidential as sending classified information on a postcard. Failing to address email ‘insecurity’ makes a mockery of a business investment in other areas of security technology. The vulnerability of using email without protection is potentially as big, if not bigger than not having a firewall or ant-virus protection.”
According to security expert, Fred Piper, Professor of Mathematics, University of London: “Growth in the use of email has been staggering and it is estimated that more emails are sent a day in the UK than letters. However, as the research reveals, not everyone is confident about the security of a message or document sent over the Internet.
“Many people believe that a letter sealed in an envelope is safe from prying eyes. This is not the case. Thousands of mailings go missing a year, either lost in transit or stolen by postal workers, despite intrinsic laws protecting any item entrusted to the Royal Mail. On the other hand, when used with the right encryption technology email is possibly the most secure form of communication there is.”
Professor Piper continued: “Sophisticated encryption can be applied to any message, preventing anyone but the sender and recipient from being able to read it. Despite this high level of security, encryption is relatively inexpensive and easy to install on a server and from there across any kind of access device. If everyone starts to use this simple security measure, email intrusion will become a thing of the past and major security breaches, which endanger both business and the general public alike, could be eliminated altogether.”
Indicii Salus has compiled a Guide to e-Commerce Security, which is now available, free to businesses at http://www.indiciisalus.com A hard copy can also be obtained by calling the Information Centre at Indicii Salus on 020 7592 3039.
About Indicii Salus
Indicii Salus is a London-based leading software security house. Founded in 1994, its flagship solution, Xenophon™ - a server-centric, PKI-based software suite - enables fast and secure Internet transactions. The solution uses the fastest, portable cryptographic engine on the market, ensuring no loss of speed during transaction processing.
Natalie Couceiro/Caroline Howlett
Nelson Bostock Communications
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