On more than one occasion I have been referred to as "Mr. Paperless", so I try to follow my own advice whenever possible. This includes signing up for paperless billing from my utility providers.
Imagine my dismay when I received the first paperless bill from my gas company, and it was sent as a PDF attachment in an e-mail.
Why is this a bad thing? Isn't it more convenient this way?
Convenient yes, but sending personal sensitive information in an e-mail is not a good idea at all. Let's discuss why that is.
When you send an e-mail, you might think that your e-mail system connects to your recipient's e-mail system and delivers the message. You might even think that things are secure because you log into webmail and you have that little lock symbol in your browser.
Those are both logical assumptions, but they are not quite right. Here is how it actually works:
When you hit send on that e-mail message, it gets sent from your provider to a central server somewhere. Then that server hands the message off to another server somewhere, and so on and so on until it gets to your recipient's server. It could take quite a few hops along the way.
These messages are sent in "clear text", which means anyone with access to any of those servers, or anyone listening in at any point along the way, has complete access to your message.
Even worse, those messages can sit around on any of those servers for months. Even if you or your recipient deletes the e-mail, it may still be out there somewhere.
Frankly, I don't care if some hacker or bored system admin reads my wife asking me to go to the grocery store to buy kale. However, if I was buying a house or applying for a loan, I sure as heck would not want those documents sitting around on some mail server in Manitoba or Idaho.
Identity theft is a big enough problem as it is without us making it easy for them.
Taking a little time up front to protect yourself with e-mail will make your private sensitive information much more secure. Now if only I can convince my gas company of this.
Published with permission September 16, 2015
Let’s say you have a PDF and you want to delete sensitive information from it. Maybe it’s an account number, a Social Security Number, or anything else that you wouldn’t want others to see.
The way most people do it is they load up the PDF in their PDF reader and draw a white or black box over top of the information. It’s blacked out right? You can’t read it anymore right?
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. While you’ve made it so that humans can’t see the information, the data is still there and embedded in the PDF. It’s very easy to find.
What you need to do is redact the information. This means an application goes through and nukes all traces of the data from the PDF. Here’s how to do it:
Redact on Windows
Redact On Mac
The best thing about all these redaction tools is you can search and redact all the text from a PDF all in one shot. You don’t need to do it one by one.
If you have sensitive information in a PDF, redaction is the way to go.
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