Internet Fax Security: Online vs Standalone
Sending and receiving faxes from your desktop seems like a good idea. But are online fax services as secure as using your fax machine?
Online Faxing Offers Security
Online services like MyFax, eFax, RingCentral and Nextiva offer you the ability to send and receive faxes from your computer, and all of them claim your data is secure. SSL and TLS are the most common ways of securing the transmission of data over the web or in email. Also, VPN is offered by some sites. It adds an additional layer of security by tunneling all data, including the SMTP portion of the email traffic, through a secure connection.
Faxing Online – Web Browser or Email
Sending a fax with an internet fax service usually involves using either email or a web interface. Using the web-interface method can be very secure. If you see the lock on your browser, you are using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. All your fax transactions are encrypted.
Receiving Using E-mail. Receiving faxes securely from an online fax service is pretty simple. All you need to check is whether your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird) is using SSL/TLS on your incoming mail account. Most corporate email systems already use these methods to secure their email traffic. Small businesses should ensure their email is using TLS or SSL. Don’t take it for granted. Email accounts are often set up as non-encrypted by default.
Sending Using E-mail. Using your email client to send a fax to a fax service for delivery is only as secure as the connection to your SMTP server. If the server that handles your outbound email is using Transport Layer Security (TLS), you know your data is secure from the moment it leaves your computer until it reaches the fax server. Most corporate email systems are secure. Small businesses, however, should find out if their email clients are set up to use TLS for outbound mail (SMTP).
Extra Security for Outbound E-mail. Some services use a special printer driver to encrypt the fax data before it ever leaves your computer. Using a printer driver to encrypt the data at your computer offers the highest level of security among these options. Your fax is only readable once it is decrypted by the recipient.
Fax Machine Security Issues
Standalone fax machines are fairly secure in terms of transmission risks, but there are obvious ways your data can be stolen. Because fax machines are often in central locations, documents get left on machines longer than they should which makes them vulnerable. Nearly all fax machines have memory in which complete documents are stored. A stolen machine can result in stolen information. Another way data gets lost is when the wrong person is waiting on the other end to retrieve the document. Finally, the sender can type in the wrong phone number and send sensitive information to the wrong fax recipient.
Which is Safer, Online Fax or Fax Machine?
Online faxing is as safe as online banking. The same technologies used to encrypt traffic between your computer and your bank are used to handle your fax data. As long as you ensure your email clients are using a TLS/SSL connection for both incoming and outgoing mail, there is little danger of your data being abused.
In the end, the decision to use an online fax service rather than your trusty stand-alone fax machine might be more dependent on convenience factors than security concerns.