While email is by far the most popular channel for business communication today, fax is still relevant. More than 100 billion fax pages are sent each year. Traditional fax, however, comes with a number of security risks. These risks are a key reason for the growing shift to fax to email services. They include the following.
- Outdated Technology
Today’s fax machines may look more modern than their counterparts from the 1960s, but the technology behind them has remained virtually the same. Transmission protocols are identical to what they were which makes them outdated and out of sync with contemporary security needs.
Hackers have discovered just how easily they can take advantage of fax technology to break into business systems. Faxploit, for instance, allows attackers to infiltrate corporate networks and bypass firewalls.
- Copy Retained on Equipment Memory
Just like printers, scanners and copiers, a fax machine will retain in its memory of the copies of documents sent or received. Usually, this copy remains in memory until it is overwritten to make way for a new document.
Typically, the amount of memory is small so you will not have a large number of documents held here. Still, for as long as a copy of the fax remains in the equipment’s memory, it is susceptible to unauthorized access.
- Copy Retained on Fax Server
Like the fax machine, a fax server can retain copies of transmitted documents. But unlike a fax machine, the fax server has much larger storage space thanks to its high capacity drives. That means copies can sit here for months or years before they are overwritten or deleted.
Fax servers are usually not encrypted either, so as long as someone can access the drives, they will be able to see copies of past faxes.
- Exposure in Common Areas
When a fax document is transmitted, it prints on the recipient’s end and remains in the paper tray until someone collects it. If the machine is in a shared area of the office such as next to the water cooler, the document is potentially readable to anyone who comes across it. That includes unauthorized employees, contractors and customers.
Unlike electronic means of communication such as email, there is no audit trail showing who has read the fax.
- Misdirected Documents
Faxes are sent by a person, so there is always a risk of human error. It is possible for one to send the right document to the wrong number or the wrong document to the right number.
The numbers on the fax machine’s dial pad are close to each other, so senders may be prone to pressing the incorrect keys. Unlike email, you cannot recall a fax document once it has been transmitted successfully and printed on the recipient’s fax machine.
- Lost Data
Fax machines create print documents. Such physical documents are vulnerable to theft, loss and damage. If a fax page is accidentally thrown in the trash, it could be lost for good.
In contrast, it is harder to lose electronic data since there is a trail of the document’s access and movement. It is also likely that a backup of the document exists.
- No Encryption
Faxes uses analog lines, infrastructure that is quickly becoming outdated. Data relayed through analog lines cannot be encrypted because modern technology does not support it. Therefore, someone who intercepts the transmission and understands how fax messages work can decipher the content of the document with little difficulty.
The Risks Are Not Insurmountable
The risks of using traditional fax technology are not insurmountable. Changing fax procedures and introducing physical controls can go a long way in making sure faxes do not land in the wrong hands. Better yet, transitioning to an online fax service could minimize or eliminate these security risks altogether.