Boardroom executives have had to be exceptionally agile when developing and releasing new forms of security controls for their information technology and communications frameworks, especially as the frequency of and damage associated with breaches continue to rise. Although data center security and network protection have become the two most commonly discussed matters in these conversations, email, text messaging and other direct communications must be covered as well.

There has been a wealth of major security breaches that were immediately traced back to errant emails containing sensitive information, especially in the health care and government sectors, while securing these communications is not all that hard. Email encryption has been around for years, and firms that offer these products and specialize in major compliance statutes such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act can ensure that sensitive information does not get leaked through these channels.

The trick is to combine sound policies and training with exceptional security software and services before a major threat strikes, as trying to bounce back from one of these events will almost always be more costly - both financially and operationally - than a proactive defense. Additionally, a breach does not have to occur to cause problems for a government agency or health care provider, with noncompliance resulting in weighty audits that strain several departments, hurt reputation and can result in high fines and sanctions.

For example, noncompliance with HIPAA can result in fines reaching $1.5 million a year and, considering the immense competition taking place in this sector, that can be enough to significantly hinder the bottom line at the end of each year. It is no longer necessary to just wait and pray that a breach or compliance audit does not strike because businesses can easily gain the resources and support they need through proven and reliable managed service providers without too much strain on budget.

Problems in Washington
McClatchy DC recently reported that members of Congress have become concerned about the Central Intelligence Agency's email snooping programs, specifically because of whistleblower communications falling into the wrong hands. Following the National Security Agency's PRISM/Edward Snowden controversy, many lawmakers have been a bit more involved in investigating the nation's intelligence community, trying to make sure members therein are not overstepping their jurisdiction.

For obvious reasons, this is a much more difficult task that most security efforts, especially considering the immense experience and resourcefulness of the CIA and NSA when it comes to sneakily stealing information from various entities. According to the news provider, the CIA managed to steal an email that was sent by a whistleblower to Congress, potentially hindering the sender's intention to uncover wrongdoings.

It goes without saying that the United States has not always been on the right side of the road when it comes to spying, with reports indicating that the nation has now spied on allies such as Germany unnecessarily. Now, the source explained that Senators, led by Ron Wyden of the Intelligence Committee, have asserted their concerns with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a letter.

"If whistleblower communications with Inspectors General or with Congress are routinely monitored and conveyed to agency leadership, it would defeat the ability to make protected disclosures confidentially, which is especially important in an intelligence community context," the letter read, according to McClatchy DC.

What this means
For the average business in the U.S., the CIA and NSA are not necessarily major concerns when compared to hackers and other types of online threats that put data and communications at risk of exposure. However, the time has come for organizations to become a bit more vigilant in the face of widespread spying and hacking incidents, regardless of which parties might be trying to break into the information.

This truly begins with email security, as hackers have become increasingly focused upon these relatively rudimentary types of communications specifically because of the common lack of control and encryption. Not only are email users failing to adequately protect each of the messages sent with encryption and other defenses, they are also not covering the access management component as stringently as most would hope.

In health care, this is simply unacceptable, as such a wide breadth of sensitive patient information travels through email services and file sharing environments every day. Remember, hackers will always look for the vulnerability in systems that can serve as an entry point, meaning that well-defended systems on a comprehensive level will generally yield a much smaller level of risk.

Use HIPAA email and encryption services, along with data center defense systems offered by reliable providers, to avoid these issues and many more, and do not relent on the mission to identify every vulnerability and shore up security, as the next major breach is right around the corner.