Sending a fax, is in many ways no different form making a phone call. Dial the wrong number and you’re going to get through to the wrong person. But unlike a phone call, the information will go through before the person on the other end of the line has time to tell you, “I think you’ve got the wrong number!”
For corporate organisations sending sensitive material through the fax machine it’s not a trivial matter, as The Bank of Scotland found out recently, to the tune of £75,000. This fine, dished out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after payslips, bank statements, account details, mortgage applications and customer contact details were sent to the wrong place for over three years, is a timely reminder of the due diligence that should be shown at all times when handling customer data.
What’s worse in this instance is that it is clear the bank was aware of the problem early on, yet it continued to happen. Human error, negligence, call it what you will; it’s clear that the processes in place for the faxing of sensitive information were shown to be wanting.
The fax machines involved were too old to be pre-programmed and the ICO has stated that it feels the bank failed to take sufficient technical and organisational measures against unauthorised processing of personal data. For example it should have invested in better training for staff and found more secure methods of sending personal material.
For many organisations, faxes remain an essential day to day communications tool but it’s clear that outdated methods have some serious drawbacks. The answer however, is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and do away with fax altogether but to examine those processes carefully and assess the communication technologies used.
The indispensability of faxing has led to the development of technologies that would make it more suitable to how businesses communicate today. The solution is in the form of fax over Internet or a computer/fax technology, giving businesses the capability to send and receive facsimiles via a computer.
This relatively new technology cuts down business operations expenses by eliminating the need to stock on paper and toner (not to mention the servicing of outdated machines) but for organisations dealing with sensitive information, it is the additional security benefits that really set electronic faxing apart from forerunner technology.
Whether hosted on a web server or installed, good solutions offer several connection scenarios – from automated faxing to individual desktop capabilities – so your staff can fax anything safely, reliably and more importantly, to the correct fax number with no manual dialling involved.
Foolproof corporate faxing is now a technological imperative for organisations like The Bank of Scotland. The technology that eliminates the human error variable from the equation exists, is easy to implement, more cost effective and allows companies to continue to communicate internally or with customers, where fax is either the preferred or mandatory medium. The ICO is turning up the heat on anyone found to be in direct breach of the data protection act and a plea of ignorance will not save organisations from hefty fines and reputation damage caused when the story goes public.