Emailing Encrypted CUI: Is It Secure? Exploring the Risks and Solutions


I have spent years working with clients who are concerned about the security of their sensitive data. One question that comes up frequently is the safety of sending encrypted CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information) via email. While encryption is a widely accepted method of safeguarding data, is it really enough to protect your CUI when it’s sent through the ether of the internet? In this article, I will explore the risks inherent in emailing encrypted CUI and discuss solutions that will help you keep your information safe. So, let’s dive in and examine the challenges of emailing encrypted CUI.

Can CUI be emailed if encrypted?

Yes, CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information) can be sent via email if it is encrypted. However, it is important to follow certain protocols to ensure the information remains secure and confidential. Here are some best practices for sending encrypted CUI via email:

  • The body of the email should be free of any CUI. This means that any information that is considered sensitive or confidential should not be included in the body of the email.
  • The information should be sent as an encryption-encrypted attachment. This means that the attachment should be password-protected and only authorized users should have access to the password.
  • Each email that contains CUI should be labeled appropriately. This means that a CUI label should be placed in the upper left corner of the email to indicate that the information is sensitive and should be handled accordingly.
  • By following these best practices, you can ensure that any CUI that is sent via email is kept secure and confidential, helping to prevent unauthorized access and potential breaches. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to sensitive information, and taking these steps can help protect both your organization and any individuals that may be impacted by a potential breach.

    ???? Pro Tips:

    1. Always check the email recipient’s security protocols to ensure the email is encrypted.
    2. Use a reliable encryption method to ensure sensitive information is secure during transit.
    3. Train your employees to avoid sharing sensitive information via open channels like emails without proper encryption.
    4. Maintain a secure email system by using the latest software and applying security updates and patches regularly.
    5. Be mindful of regulatory compliance requirements for emailing CUI and ensure that encryption protocols meet the regulatory standard.

    Understanding CUI and its Restrictions

    Before discussing whether or not CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information) can be emailed if encrypted, it is important to first understand what CUI is. CUI is information that requires protection, but is not categorized as classified information. This type of information may include sensitive but unclassified information pertaining to law enforcement, export control, budget and financial data, and other sensitive topics.

    The handling of CUI is subject to restrictions and regulations put in place by the Federal government to ensure the protection of these sensitive data. The handling of CUI extends to how it is transmitted through different communication channels, including email communication.

    Emailing CUI: Encryption Requirements

    While emailing CUI may be necessary for some organizations, it should be done in a manner that complies with the regulations established for handling CUI. Thus, when it comes to emailing CUI, the information must be sent in an encrypted form. This is because, even though CUI is not classified, it can still be considered sensitive information, and its protection is a matter of national security.

    With that said, it is important to ensure that the encryption used to protect CUI is sufficient and meets the standards set by the Federal government. Such standards include the use of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is commonly used in the Federal government. AES encrypts the data such that only authorized individuals with decryption keys can access and read the data.

    The Importance of CUI Labeling

    Labeling your emails with the appropriate CUI label is crucial for the protection of CUI. CUI labeling helps ensure that controlled unclassified information is protected throughout its lifecycle. The appropriate CUI label should be placed on the upper left corner of every email that contains CUI.

    The CUI labeling process identifies the different types of CUI, and the appropriate measures necessary to protect them. It also helps define the requirements for the handling, storing, and transmitting of different types of CUI. A comprehensive labeling process gives organizations control over the flow of CUI information and reduces the risk of sensitive data from being mishandled.

    Ensuring the Body of Emails Remain Free of CUI

    When it comes to emailing CUI, it is important to ensure that the body of the email does not contain any sensitive data. Emailing sensitive information in the body of the email is considered unsecure and can put CUI at risk of unauthorized access.

    To ensure the body of the email is free of CUI, it is advisable to draft the email first without any sensitive information and then attach the encrypted CUI file. This approach can help ensure that a mistake does not occur when sending the email and that sensitive data is not accidentally revealed.

    Additionally, using encryption software can help automatically scan emails for sensitive information and alert the sender before hitting send if any CUI content exists in the body of the email.

    Proper Placement of CUI Labels

    The placement of labeling on CUI is very important, and it should be placed in the upper left corner of every outgoing email. A CUI label helps individuals identify sensitive but unclassified information to remind them of the importance of safeguarding the information properly. Sensitive information can be mishandled easily, and the CUI labels provide a visible reminder of the need for confidentiality and protecting the information.

    Including CUI labeling reinforces the importance of the information to all individuals, regardless of their specific role, who handle the CUI. It ensures they know they have to take the necessary steps to ensure its safety throughout its lifecycle and restrict any mishandling.

    Attachment Encryption for CUI Emails

    When sending CUI through email, it should be in the form of an attachment that is encrypted. This approach ensures that the sensitive information cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals in transit. As we previously noted, using advanced encryption standards is an additional advantage for ensuring that the CUI is not accidentally shared.

    Encrypting of the attachments provides additional protection and can significantly reduce the risk associated with emails that contain CUI, ensuring its confidentiality, availability, and integrity all through its lifecycle.

    In conclusion, emailing CUI can be done safely if the appropriate measures are taken into consideration. Encryption and labeling of emails, along with the use of encrypted attachments, are ideal methods of safeguarding sensitive information throughout its lifecycle. Following the guidelines set for emailing CUI ensures its confidentiality, availability, and integrity.