Fax vs. Secure File Transfer: A Guide to Choosing the Right Method

Fax vs. Secure File Transfer: A Guide to Choosing the Right Method

Amid rising concerns over cybersecurity due to recent significant breaches, a number of institutions have surprisingly resorted to the fax machine for transmitting confidential data. This move may appear unconventional in an age where email encryption has seen substantial improvements. It naturally raises the inquiry: does fax boast superior security compared to email?

The inclination to equal 'new' with 'improved' is a common one, particularly in the realm of technical advancements. However, the shift towards older fax technology over contemporary email solutions and secure file transfer isn't without merit.

Email Security Issues

While the convenience and ubiquity of email communication are indisputable, the perception that it is an inherently secure channel is a common misconception. Encryption and the use of login credentials create a veneer of security, and our computers' defenses—such as firewalls and anti-malware—are often mistaken as sufficient safeguards against all cyber threats. Unlike the communal destination of faxes, which arrive at a shared device, emails seemingly offer direct, private conduits to their recipients.

Despite these protective measures, the transmission of sensitive data through email comes with substantial vulnerabilities:

  • Emails are potential delivery systems for harmful software. Attachments can harbor viruses or spyware that bypass standard defenses, compromising the security of the recipient’s system.
  • Phishing scams are rampant in the guise of legitimate emails, where unsuspecting recipients are coaxed into revealing their passwords and private data.
  • The conveyance of legal documents via email is fraught with practical and regulatory challenges, sometimes failing to meet the legal requirements for document transmission—leading to scenarios where faxing remains the only legally recognized method.
  • The alarming possibility of email account breaches means that personal and confidential information can be accessed, altered, or stolen by unauthorized entities.

Fax Security Issues

Beware of fax machine vulnerabilities! Cyber attackers have the capability to transmit harmful code to a fax device, camouflaged as a standard image or document. Once the fax processes this deceptive code, it can act as a gateway for attackers to infiltrate associated networks or devices.

Nevertheless, breaching a fax machine, particularly one utilizing a conventional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) line, presents significant challenges to hackers. Despite this, security lapses have occurred, with fax devices exploited as entry points to attack and compromise further systems. More advanced solutions, likeFAX from iPhone: Fax App, are already free of such vulnerabilities. Thanks to additional encryption of fax documents, fax security remains at a good level.

File Transfer Software Security Issues

In a concerning wave of digital security breaches, data from 66 million people has been compromised following an attack by Clop on users of Progress Software's MOVEit transfer software. This incident has not only placed the personal details of a vast number of individuals at risk but has also impacted over 2,500 organizations. This information comes from the latest figures by Emsisoft's security research.

The safety concerns surrounding file transfer tools remain at the forefront as new vulnerabilities emerge. A notable instance occurred when Assetnote, an Australian cybersecurity company, detected a severe security gap in the ShareFile system of Citrix. This cloud-based service, known as Citrix Content Collaboration, safeguards and manages file sharing and storage. Citrix promptly addressed the issue with a patch on May 11 and communicated the necessary preventive measures to its customers to ensure their protection. Furthermore, in an effort to prevent wider exploits, they restricted access to their cloud services from any unpatched systems, thereby confining potential damage within the customer's own infrastructure.

Why Can Faxes Be Safer Than Emails or File Transfer Software?

In a digital age where cybersecurity is a top concern, it's worth noting that sometimes, the old-school methods offer more security. Take faxes, for example. Many might consider them obsolete, but they offer a level of security that emails struggle to match. This is largely because fax machines are less integrated into today's networked world.

Many fax machines still operate using traditional phone lines, even though today's models can connect via the internet using something known as SIP trunking protocol. Despite this advancement, faxes generally have a smaller digital footprint. Even secure document sharing cannot guarantee protection, and there are a lot of incidents involving hacking of this software. Even the most advanced file encryption methods sooner or later face threats.

If we think of a fax machine like a secluded cabin in the woods compared to an email's city apartment, then it's clear why it would be trickier for unwanted guests (or hackers) to stumble upon it. If you supplement the fax with data security best practices, the level of cyber protection will be maximum. While fax connections aren't impervious to exploits, the security vulnerabilities they do possess are generally simpler to safeguard against than the multitude of risks associated with email communication.