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The Risks of Email, Everyday Messengers, and Collaboration Tools
There’s an abundant choice of different communication channels for different use cases: email for external contacts, MS Teams for internal communication, and WhatsApp for informal information exchange, just to name a few. This can be problematic for companies, as those tools do not always meet the requirements for security and data protection. In this post, we will touch on the risks the most common tools entail and explain in which cases it’s imperative for a company to use a dedicated business messenger.
Emails have long been the fastest and easiest communication tool in the business world. However, it’s out of question that emails are secure: without encryption, emails can be intercepted relatively easy on their way from the sender to the recipient. The problem: adding encryption to emails is an arduous task, which is why many companies (consciously or unconsciously) omit it. Cyberattacks via email pose another serious threat to a company.
Data Theft via Phishing EmailsAccording to a 2021 study by Cisco, phishing attacks are carried out ten times more often than any other type of attack. Phishing emails are used by cybercriminals to lure employees to disclose confidential information or passwords. The resulting financial loss is tremendous: according to a 2022 study by IBM, a security breach caused by phishing costs $4.91 million in average.
Messenger Services for Private Use
Recently, instant messengers have increasingly been used as a complement to or replacement of email. Short communication channels and the fact that many employees are familiar with instant messaging from personal experience make instant messengers particularly suitable for fast information exchange. That can be problematic for companies: US services, for example, are subject to the CLOUD Act, which requires them to grant secret services and authorities access to user data. This undermines privacy protection and doesn’t comply with legal requirements for protection of data and trade secrets in the EU.
In addition, messenger services intended for private use don’t allow any kind of user administration. In other words: it’s not possible to preconfigure the app for the staff, and access cannot be restricted if an employee leaves the company.
Avoid Everyday Messengers in a Business EnvironmentThe use of everyday tools for business purposes creates so-called “shadow IT,” which involves significant risks for companies. Confidential company data could fall into the wrong hands, employees are easier accessible for cyberattacks, and communication exchanged with everyday messengers doesn’t comply with the GDPR. Read this blog post to find out more about shadow IT.
Collaboration Tools with Chat Feature
Popular collaboration tools also show numerous vulnerabilities when it comes to security – in 2022 alone, thousands of cyberattacks on MS Teams have been reported. The following security gaps have been discovered:
- If criminals gain access to a company’s systems, it’s easy for them to see what protection measures the company applies. From that, they can derive which malware is able to circumvent these measures. There are no protection measures against malicious links and files.
- Users can invite other people to MS Teams without restrictions – an overview of who invited whom doesn’t exist.
- Hardly any employee is capable of verifying profile pictures and names in MS Teams conversations. There is a risk that cybercriminals try to impersonate superiors (CEO fraud) to acquire confidential employee data and trade secrets.
- As the name suggests, enabling collaboration is the primary function of such tools, while chat communication only plays a minor role. Therefore, they’re not suited to exchange sensitive data – especially because collaboration tools don’t end-to-end encrypt chat messages.
The message is clear: Using a dedicated business messenger is essential, even if email, collaboration tools, and other messenger services are firmly established in a company. These communication channels are not suitable in terms of data protection and cannot safeguard trade secrets. In fact, they involve substantial risks that can be avoided by using a secure communication tool. Last but not least, a dedicated business messenger allows for secure communication in case of emergency when all other channels are compromised.
C-Level Communication Requires Particularly High Security
Providing a secure communication channel to all employees in the company is vital, but on decision-making levels, i.e., top levels, security requirements are particularly high. If company secrets or sensitive information fall into the hands of uninvolved third parties while business negotiations are still in progress, this could have serious financial consequences, damage a company’s image, or lead to loss of protection of trade secrets (a topic we have already set out in detail in this blog post).
With this in mind, employees in C-level positions (e.g., CEO, COO, CFO, etc.) are well-advised to introduce a communication tool that is used for corporate information exchange only, complies with high data security standards, and guarantees rock-solid protection against third-party access.
The Benefits of a Dedicated Secure Business Messenger
Instant messaging has long arrived in top-level management, and the benefits are obvious: the fast and efficient communication it allows contributes to finding solutions and making critical decisions quickly. However, chat apps intended for personal use don’t meet the demands of corporate communication for security and data protection. The solution: a dedicated business messenger.
Safeguarding Company Data and Trade Secrets
To maintain confidentiality and protect company data, dedicated business messengers like Threema Work apply end-to-end encryption to the entire communication: messages can only be read on the devices of the chat participants. They also comply with progressive data-protection regulations such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
With the option to restrict communication to company contacts only, the risk that confidential information – especially C-level communication – falls into the hands of uninvolved people is minimized. Threema Work further offers verification levels that indicate that the Threema ID belongs to an internal contact. Should a company require maximum security, there’s the option to host Threema Work on company servers (on premises).
Maximum Protection of Users’ Privacy
The following security measures of professional messaging services optimally protect the staff’s privacy:
- No phone number required: Threema Work can be used without providing personally identifiable information (such as a phone number or email address) and without granting access to the address book.
- Metadata restraint: Threema Work only stores the data necessary for delivering the message – it doesn’t systematically collect personal information to create comprehensive user profiles.
- Decentralized storage: Messages are solely stored on the users’ devices and not in the long term on a central server of the service operator.
Comprehensive Administration Features
In order to define user rights and implement corporate policies, the possibility to preconfigure the app is inevitable. If an employee leaves the company, access to the business messenger can easily be withdrawn to avoid data leaks.
Threema Work is the ideal alternative to everyday messengers when it comes to protecting corporate communication, especially in C-level management. The strict data and privacy protection along with comprehensive administration features make sure that your business communication is both secure and efficient.
Test Threema Work free of charge for 30 days to see if it meets your company’s demands.