Everyday Computing, Features, Technology

Presidential Email Mistakes

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

HILARY Clinton, the US Presidential candidate, has been dogged by news reports indicating that she did not fully comply with rules concerning the proper use of technology, specifically, how email messages were handled. News reports suggest sensitive messages being sent through a personal email account, and even stories of a separate email server. If such an individual who occupied a high-office, could run afoul of such well-established rules, regulations, and policies, then it is an indicator that there may be others who fall into the same category.

To correctly analyse this issue, we should understand the overall technology environment. Email messages typically have strict rules governing their proper use, because it is too easy to misuse that technology. This is a real risk in sensitive business, health, legal, and diplomatic environments. If your own work environment could benefit from proper email handling, there are definitely lessons to be learned.

When you send a typical email message, it goes through multiple stages and computer systems.
(1) Your own computer

You type the message on your computer or your mobile device, and then send it.

(2) Your mail server

Your mail server collects the outgoing message, and does some additional processing to determine whether the message is acceptable for onward sending. These checks are done on all messages. In a busy work environment, the mail server is a busy machine. Here are some examples of the checks which could be applied to the message:

* If there are any attachments, are they of an allowable type? (Typically, this means non-executable files.)
* Is the overall size of your message below the threshold?
* Are you sending the message to too many recipients?

Many other tests are possible, including checks for banned words, foul language, and other objectionable content.
If the tests are passed, the message will be delivered, otherwise it will be rejected.

(3) The recipient’s mail server

The recipient’s mail server also performs checks on the incoming message. This guards against viruses, malware, and other objectionable content. It also verifies that the intended recipient actually exists in that environment. After all checks have been passed, the message is delivered to the recipient.

(4) The recipient’s computer

The message is delivered to the recipient, who reads it on their computer.

This is a simplified view of how email messages are processed. Because email is commonly used, its proper handling and an understanding of that environment, is essential to maintain compliance and overall safety. Applying too many checks on messages will slow down overall processing, whereas too few may cause their own problems. If it is necessary to set policies in your own environment, it would be wise to also establish a routine for monitoring compliance.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The Voice.

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