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What The Net Is Not 28 January 2002 Edition
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I've recently noticed that a growing number of business Internet users have been operating under the assumption that they are dealing with something that is simply an extension of the good old telephone network.

This attitude has meant that they are making some awfully dangerous assumptions about the security and reliability of such services as email.

One otherwise quite smart manager I spoke to recently was horrified to be told that his important emails were the electronic equivalent of a postcard and that there was nothing to stop them being read by third parties as they bounced across the globe.

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He was under the assumption that the fact he had to log onto the Net ensured his messages were safe from spying eyes.

He also assumed that once the "send" button had been clicked, the delivery of his emails was guaranteed.

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As most Aardvark readers will likely be aware, the Net is neither 100 percent reliable nor secure.

Those of us who have been using the Net for a few years will have already discovered this for ourselves. Although the situation has improved dramatically, lost emails are still something that happens -- and close to 100 percent of all communications on the Net is done without any form of encryption.

Although the data-links and software involved are becoming more reliable and secure these days, there are still other ways that your emails can be derailed into the giant bit-bin of the Net.

One of the most common is when the sender mis-addresses an email, using an email address that is wrong -- but turns out never the less to be that of a valid mailbox somewhere. Your message won't bounce -- but nor will it arrive at the intended destination. No errors have occurred and the only way you'll know there's been a problem is if the actual recipient is kind enough to let you know or when the intended recipient bitches about its non-arrival.

Another increasingly common "black hole" is spam filtering.

As the tide of unsolicited commercial email continues to rise, many mail services, ISPs and users are adding increasingly sophisticated filtering systems. Sometimes these filters are just too clever and inadvertently mark a genuine message as spam.

While the better systems tend to simply divert messages marked as spam into another folder, it's still very easy to overlook checking that folder for days or weeks at a time. This means that a critical email might not be read until it's too late -- or perhaps never.

So, if you've got a very important communications that just has to get through you might want to consider picking up the phone and actually talking to a real person for a change. Or at least follow-up that email with a call to make sure it has arrived safely.

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