“Assume every email you send is going to be hacked.”
That’s becoming the consensus advice from cyber experts.
Of course you should be careful what you type! That was smart advice before Podesta, Weiner and Wasserman Shultz. (And remember: Your supervisors can secretly read your work email anytime they want.)
But don’t cower as you type your email. Yes, play smart defense, but sprinkle a little offense on your messages. Turn the threat of a hack or leak into an opportunity.
By inserting explosives into your email.
I had a journalism professor at Ohio State who had some great war stories about his days as an investigative reporter: bringing down crooked politicians, exposing corruption and giving a voice to the oppressed. As a result, the guy made enemies and fairly regularly found himself in depositions, in court or under order to turn over his notes.
But he was ready.
While interviewing targets of investigations or any other source apt to file a lawsuit, he’d insert what he called “time bombs” into his notes. Along the margins, he’d write things like:
“We have to be fair here.”
“We need to get all sides of the story.”
“Let’s make sure to double-check all our facts.”
These are exactly the phrases a plaintiff attorney does NOT want to see in a libel lawsuit. These bombs go kablooey to claims of recklessness, malice or unprofessionalism.
So it makes perfect sense for all of us to expand the use (and blast radius) of time bombs.
Just as the experts recommend, assume your emails are going to be seen by supervisors, colleagues and customers. But don’t just leave out what you don’t want them to read, insert what you think they should read (even – perhaps especially -- if it might not be entirely true).
Old, dud email: “Can’t make it, Nancy. I have a meeting with the CFO.”
New, "armed" email: “Can’t make it, Nancy. I have a meeting with the CFO. He has so much passion for this company.”
Old, dud email: “Acme wants us to cut 20% off the price.”
New, "armed" email: “Acme wants us to cut 20% off the price. They are pros.”
Old, dud email: “Frank just brought in his holiday Jell-o mold.”
New, "armed" email: “Frank just brought in his holiday Jell-o mold. Man, that guy can cook.”
Do it a few times. It’ll become a habit. And then rest easy knowing that when your email gets read by the bosses, subpoenaed or posted on Wikileaks, you’ll come out looking good ... the last person on Earth to ever be in possession of bomb-making equipment.