I was at an industry conference last month when someone asked me about encrypted email. Apparently, that person had just heard a pitch for an expensive encrypted email solution that she just had to have. You know the ones I’m talking about…..those horribly inconvenient systems that send all of your emails to a website and require your intended recipient to log in with a user name and password that they won’t remember because the other title companies have the same type system but with different logins and passwords!
It’s been 6 years since ALTA adopted Best Practices which pretty much mandated secure email when the message or attachment contained NPI. Back then, there were numerous respected industry professionals who predicted the demise of the small, independent title/settlement agent because they just couldn’t afford the 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars it would cost to comply, including an expensive email encryption system. It seems like, for a lot of people, the only way to meet a new challenge is to throw money at it! I have preached for years now that there really is no need for such hysteria. Small title/settlement agents can achieve the necessary level of internal controls to meet the spirit of Best Practices without investing a fortune. Encrypted email is one such example.
NPI Needs to be Protected
Probably everyone reading this has received NPI from lenders and others in the form of email or attachments to an e-mail in the recent past and has sent NPI to lenders and others in the same fashion. Question: We are just finding out that this is a problem? The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, probably the best known federal law dealing with the protection of NPI, was enacted in 1999, 20 years ago! Now, don’t misunderstand! Identity theft is a real and important problem in this country and title/settlement agents, as well as lenders, real estate agents, abstractors and others in the industry handle NPI on a routine basis just as they have for many, many years. It’s only common sense that we all guard against improperly disclosing any NPI. However, anyone would be hard-pressed to point to any pattern of abuse of NPI by real estate title and settlement professionals.
Email Needs to be Fast, Easy & Convenient!
Email is an easy, fast, convenient and effective mode of communication used by pretty much everyone in this 21st century. How can we assure that our e-mail communications remain easy, fast, convenient, effective and SAFE? We can certainly throw a lot of money at it! We can purchase a system for encrypting our email messages and attachments. We can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront and many 10’s or 100’s of dollars monthly for such a system.
The Easier, Effective & Free Way!
The alternative to an expensive email encryption service is Transport Layer Security (TLS). TLS is FREE and chances are that you already have it but don’t know it! TLS has been around for many years but has only recently become widely adopted by the major email providers (i.e. Gmail, Comcast, AT&T, etc.). TLS works right from your TLS enabled email server. If the sender’s email system has TLS enabled and the recipient’s email system has TLS enabled, then the entire message and attachments are sent in an encrypted manner. The key is that both the sender’s and the receiver’s email systems must have TLS enabled.
To find out if your email system has TLS enabled, go to https://www.checktls.com/TestReceiver and enter your email address into the eMail Target and click Run Test. Your test results will display on the screen.
Going through the above process every time you need to send a message would be grossly inconvenient. However, there are inexpensive plugins for Microsoft Outlook which make checking for your recipient’s TLS easily and conveniently. The Landtech XML system installs a plugin for Outlook automatically and there is a stand-alone plugin available also. LOOP Information System’s ClosingSite (aka Landtraq) offers a Forced TLS to its users. Forced TLS automatically checks for the recipient’s TLS and only sends the email message if the recipient does have TLS enabled.
If you want more information about Landtech’s Check TLS plugin for Outlook, Landtraq or for any other information, just contact me.
To learn more about Edwin G. Generes, CPA, visit his LTAMs Member Profile.