Secure Online Faxing: A Guide

secure online fax

Even though we’ve been living in the digital age for some decades already, there are still many companies out there that continue to use fax machines, and they often have to deal with sensitive information, especially in industries with strict security regulations, such as healthcare, law or finance, where secure faxing is a must.

But why so many of them keep using fax machines? Despite the fact that nowadays online faxing allows us to fax better than ever before, a lot of people are concerned about the safety of this new technology.

The most common idea among those that think online fax isn’t secure, is that since faxes are transmitted over an Internet connection, they can’t be as secure as faxing through a conventional phone line. Well, let me tell you, digital fax is not only safe – it can be even safer than faxing through a machine!

Fax Over Internet technology was developed not only to be more effective, but to be more secure than conventional faxing methods.

How to Make Sure You Are Faxing Securely

Protecting private faxes is extremely important. You need to make sure they can’t be seen by anybody who’s not supposed to see them. This is the most important thing to remember:

Use a HIPAA-Compliant Online Fax Service

Before choosing an online fax service, check that it provides HIPAA-compliant transmissions. Of the many services out there, we think that eFax, through their eFax Corporate plan offers the best secure fax solution.

No matter what provider you choose, ask them that they give you a “Business Associate Agreement”, as this is a requirement. Some services don’t have this on their web pages, in those cases it is a good idea to talk to a representative, because they may just offer HIPAA compliance but not the agreement.

Analogue Faxing and Security

Although analog fax is used massively for sending and receiving sensitive documents, there are times when the information may be vulnerable.

We all know that when receiving faxes on a crowded office it’s better to stand next to the machine, since it is the only way to make sure the document is kept away from curious eyes. Things only get worse in offices where fax machines have been set up for automatic reception of transmissions.

Once the physical documents have been received, they must also be handled with care. Sometimes they are stored, other times they are read and then destroyed with a paper shredder. All these extra steps end up wasting precious hours of your time throughout the weeks.

Internet Fax and Other Types of Virtual Communications

We’ve heard many times the suggestion to ​​use more common types of online communications instead of fax, such as traditional email, or instant messaging with services such as Skype, Gmail, Outlook, etc. Although on the surface this might sound like a good idea, these forms of communication are not secure enough.

You have to be very careful with fake emails and phishing attempts. Although it is true that online fax can be received via email, the services provide advanced ways to ensure that faxes with private information is only seen by the desired people.

How Online Fax Services Keeps the Information Secure

Each online fax service handles the security of documents in different ways. Let’s see what they are.

  • ​Encryption. This means that your fax will be temporarily converted to a different file so that you can not decipher its contents; It is a digital way to cover your things with a blanket so that nobody can see them. Fax Over IP is very secure when point-to-point encryption is active. In fact, it is much safer than conventional faxing.
  • ​Password Protection. If you receive incoming fax on Gmail or another email, you can add password protection to your incoming faxes, doubling the barrier against intruders. To access this option, you will usually have to go to the members’ area of ​​your service, within the Settings tab, and enable your password.
  • ​Unique File Formats. Other services, instead of putting a password in place, generate a type of file that’s only readable through a program provided by their software. This method is safe, but it requires having the program installed, then accessed with your online credentials.
  • ​HIPAA Compliance. Corporate plans with the top fax services ensure communications comply with HIPAA, SOX & GLBA regulations and PCI Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). Regular fax lines are subject to breaking down at any minute, violating HIPAA.  In certain industries, this can lead to major problems.

​The part of HIPAA that refers to faxes is the “Safeguards Principle” which states that:

“Individually identifiable health information should be protected with reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability and to prevent unauthorized or inappropriate access, use, or disclosure.”

Outside of these additional features, which are used for confidential documents, the normal transmission of ​online fax services is very secure, complying with all regulations to avoid any type of interception.

If you work in areas where confidentiality is vital, then rest assured that by using Internet fax your documents will be more secure than with the conventional fax method.

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