Many years ago I was a consultant for a company who decided they
wanted to perform a security audit of their computer systems. One of the components of
their system that I was requested to check out was email. My client wanted
to determine if their email was secure.
It took me all of a minute to determine that their email was totally and
completely insecure. Fortunately for them,How Private Is Your Email? Articles this was in the days before it
was common for company computer systems to be directly connected to the
internet, because their email messages were stored in plain text in a well
known system location. In fact, not only were the email messages stored in a
completely insecure manner, but deleted messages were not actually deleted
until an administrator purged them – and since they didn’t have anyone doing
that there was a complete record of company emails going back years in the
I had spent about thirty minutes on this part of the audit so far and was
ready to move on when one of the email messages caught my eye. It was a
particularly juicy romantic message from one employee to another. Well,
romantic is not the right word – highly x-rated would be send a test email more like it.
Curious, I continued looking through the emails (off the clock, of course,
since I had already accomplished my mission as regards email) to see what
else was stored in the single message file.
I stayed up all night long, highly amused at what I saw that day. Believe
me, I read some serious blackmail material (if I was that kind of person).
Lots of office romance, some flirting, X-rated messages and other similar
things. I remember one particularly scandalous series of hundreds of emails
going back and forth between one man and a woman (both single) recounting
their relationship for years. Every date, every x-rated encounter was
written up in long, detailed messages. This was very entertaining stuff
After a few hours I got bored and stopped reading. I was tempted to keep a
copy of the email data but resisted. That was not part of my mission.
Fortunately, it was also not part of my job to report on indiscretions
committed by various employees. My job was to find and fix any insecurities,
and that’s exactly what I did … I erased the file and set up an automatic
purge to permanently delete old emails. At the time that was the best that I