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The transfer of knowledge, ideas, data, or messages via digital means is referred to as electronic communication or digital communication. Electronic communication includes a broad range of methods, such as email, instant messaging, text messaging, online chat rooms and forums, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and video conferencing tools like Skype and Zoom.
It’s no secret that electronic communication has become increasingly popular over the last several decades due to its convenience and affordability. However, any digital exchange poses security risks to organisations, especially when the communications involve sensitive and protected data.
Electronic communication is an integral part of modern life, and it's important to understand the different types available in order to make informed decisions about how best to protect yourself.
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Types of Electronic Communication
Electronic communication is the exchange of digital messages and data over a network or through other electronic means. Digital communication provides a wide range of uses, from business and personal to educational and recreational. As a vital foundation in today’s connected world, electronic communication includes several different types and channels. Below are some of the most common.
Email is one of the most popular forms of electronic communication. It allows users to send written messages with attachments, such as images and documents, to another user's email address or group mailing list quickly and easily. Email is an important way to keep informed about different tasks and events, as it can be utilised to receive notices from online services such as social media networks, banking sites, etc.
Several security risks are associated with email, as it's among the most popular mediums for cyber-attacks. These include phishing attacks, social engineering tactics, malware, and business email compromise. Addressing these email security risks requires establishing clear policies and training protocols, as well as using tools to protect against malicious threats, like multifactor authentication, spam filters, and anti-malware software.
Instant messaging apps are another type of electronic communication that allows users to send real-time text messages back and forth between two people or within larger groups without waiting for responses, as with email. Popular messaging apps include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Skype, Viber, Telegram, etc., which all have different features depending on their platform. However, they generally offer similar functionality, such as sending photos, videos, files, and links along with your text messages.
With instant messaging, users are at risk of revealing sensitive or confidential information over an unsecured delivery channel. Not only can this be a breeding ground for viruses and worms, but cybercriminals can use instant messaging to launch phishing schemes and other cyber-attacks. These vulnerabilities and the lack of controlled protection are primarily why instant messaging platforms are not widely used for electronic communication in business environments.
Video conferencing tools enable geographically dispersed participants to bridge the distance between them and connect virtually face-to-face, utilising webcams and microphones for an interactive experience while sharing screens in real-time. This popular type of electronic communication allows everyone to see each other during the dialogue, even when they are not physically in the same room – making it ideal for conferences between employees who work remotely or across different offices worldwide. Popular video conferencing tools include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Join Me.
Despite its widespread use and popularity, video conferencing software is not immune to security risks. Potential issues include unauthorised access, misconfigurations, and the potential for cyber attackers to breach sensitive data. Using secure passwords, enabling multifactor authentication, and ensuring a secure Internet connection are just a few ways individuals and organisations can establish stronger cybersecurity to protect their communication.
Social media networks are also considered electronic communication since they enable people from anywhere around the globe to connect via posts, comments, likes, and shares. Some popular social media networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat, and within these platforms are instant messaging or direct messaging capabilities. Users create profiles that others can follow and post content publicly visible to anyone who follows them or privately visible only to those they choose. Social media networks are ideal for staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues while maintaining some privacy if desired.
As organisations allow their employees to engage with customers over social media channels, monitoring the activity is an evolving challenge for companies. Unmonitored social media posts or improper digital communications can trigger regulatory sanctions, fines, or litigation, not to mention reputational damage to a company brand. In turn, it's become increasingly crucial for companies to integrate defensible compliance strategies, implement automated policies for social monitoring, and unite data feeds across platforms so that organisations effectively comply with internal and regulatory guidelines.
Text messaging is a form of electronic communication that allows users to quickly and easily send short messages via their phones or other mobile devices. It's one of the most widely used forms of digital communication for both personal and business purposes, making it an invaluable tool for staying connected with colleagues, friends, and family.
However, there are potential risks associated with using text messaging as a form of electronic communication. For example, if a device becomes lost or stolen, someone else could access all conversations unless proper security measures have been taken beforehand (such as setting up encryption). Furthermore, carriers may store records of all your texts, which could lead to privacy issues if those records were ever made public or leaked without your knowledge or consent.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is an electronic communication method that transfers files between computers. While it's not the most widely known, FTP is one of the oldest methods of file sharing. It connects two computers over a network and allows them to exchange data. One significant security risk associated with FTP is that it does not encrypt data during transmission, meaning that any sensitive information sent via this protocol could be intercepted and read by malicious actors on the same network.
Additionally, FTP does not authenticate users attempting to access its services; anyone can connect and potentially gain access to shared resources without permission from an administrator or other authorised personnel. As such, organisations should take steps to secure their networks against unauthorised access when using FTP for file transfers.
Electronic communication is an essential tool in today's digital world, but it also carries risks that must be managed. Therefore, identifying the potential hazards of digital communication is imperative for maintaining data security.
Security Risks of Electronic Communication
Electronic messaging offers a rapid and effortless way to stay in touch, yet it also poses certain risks. These risks can range from privacy concerns to malicious cyberattacks, and businesses should be aware of the potential dangers to protect themselves and their customers.
Data breaches are among the most common security risks associated with electronic communication. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in communication systems to gain unauthorised access to confidential data, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or social security numbers. Businesses should deploy protective measures to protect against the various types of data breaches, such as encrypting transmissions, maintaining up-to-date antivirus software, and educating staff on security protocols to reduce the probability of data compromise.
Another security risk posed by electronic communication is malware infections. Malware can cause serious damage or data theft, ranging from viruses and worms to ransomware, spyware, adware, and keyloggers. To protect against malware attacks, companies should install firewalls on their networks and use anti-malware solutions such as virus scanners, intrusion detection systems, and other forms of emerging threat intelligence. Additionally, they should educate employees about safe online practices like avoiding suspicious websites or downloading unknown files from untrusted sources.
It is imperative to grasp the dangers of electronic correspondence to safeguard organisations from potential digital assaults. In addition, compliance risks must also be considered when assessing overall cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities inherent in electronic communication.
Compliance Risks of Electronic Communication
When it comes to electronic communication, compliance risks are a significant concern. National and global regulations have created an environment where organisations must be aware of their responsibilities when using digital communication. To ensure their legal protection and remain compliant, businesses must be cognisant of the regulations they must follow.
Organisations should implement systems so that staff receives adequate instruction on the laws and regulations of electronic communication utilisation. This includes data privacy, encryption standards, and email retention policies. Organisations must employ appropriate measures for surveying staff web activity, including any potential infringement of corporate principles or pertinent laws.
Another critical aspect of compliance risk management is understanding the implications of international data transfer agreements like relevant GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or HIPAA Privacy Rule. Businesses must know how these agreements affect operations when transferring personal information across borders or storing it overseas. Regularly reviewing contracts with external entities is also essential to guarantee adherence to applicable regulations and security protocols for data protection.
Organisations can also reduce compliance risks by implementing robust authentication methods for user access control, such as multifactor authentication or biometric technology solutions, like fingerprint scanning or facial recognition software. These measures help prevent unauthorised access to sensitive information stored within a company’s network infrastructure while still providing convenient access for authorised users who require it to perform their job duties effectively.
Businesses must recognise hazards associated with digital communication to shield their data and resources. It is important to implement best practices to ensure that all digital communications are secure.
By taking proactive measures like deploying robust firewalls, comprehensive antivirus solutions, and user education, companies can significantly reduce their exposure when communicating electronically with others outside the organisation's walls.
Communication security best practices are essential to ensure the protection of sensitive data and privacy. Digital communication protection and compliance are critical to safeguarding information from malicious actors.
How Proofpoint Can Help
It’s challenging for organisations to monitor and control the various forms of electronic communication, let alone determine the proper protection strategies across an environment. Proofpoint can help organisations audit and discover weaknesses in confidential communication transfer, implement strategies that follow GDPR and other compliance regulations, and ensure data is protected against breaches and theft. In addition to offering security awareness training, Proofpoint can streamline incident responses and establish a protected environment that safeguards data from external risk.