Scan to Email: What you Need to Know


Scan to email is a commonly used way of digitizing paper documents and distributing them to colleagues or external parties. In simple terms, scan to email is the process of using a scanner or copier to convert a physical document into a digital image or pdf file and then send it to one or more recipients via email. This approach to quickly flowing documents between people is widely used and in many organizations is an accepted method of document distribution.

However, despite the convenience of this approach, scan to email carries high financial and security risks. Growth in remote and hybrid working, driven initially by the COVID-19 pandemic and now widely adopted as normal practice, has highlighted and worsened those dangers.

A lack of awareness of these risks and a lack of understanding of potential alternatives leaves many organizations unwittingly exposed to avoidable risks.

Whether you are considering scan to email as a solution for the first time or are already using it, it’s important to ask two questions: Are the risks of scan to email acceptable? What alternative approaches should I consider?

A History of Scan to Email Risk

In 2019, the University of South Florida mistakenly emailed over 400 acceptance letters to applicants, as reported by ABC News. These emails contained information relating to university IDs, admission deposit payments and housing applications. Realizing its mistake, the school soon sent a follow-up email to students that said, “There was an error in the system. Please disregard the previous email.” The public onslaught of complaint was swift, with both students and parents expressing their disappointment and anger towards the school at the damage done. Lack of email security had resulted in sensitive information being disclosed and the University’s reputation injured.

Expensive reputational and other damage to an organization, such as in this case, highlights the risks of scan to email and email communication systems. What’s more, email security breaches are frequent and almost every organization has suffered from them. Reports by Egress state that email data breaches occur every 12 working hours, with the top three causes of data breaches being:

  • Wrong recipient added to an email
  • Wrong file attached to an email
  • Replied to a spear phishing attack.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reputational and financial risks of scan to email were exacerbated. Organizations were forced to quickly adapt to changing work environments, with many choosing scan to email as a quick-fix solution. This acted as an emergency crutch that allowed organizations to support remote working teams, maintain productivity levels, and continue essential business processes.

Despite scan to email offering a readily available solution to the new challenges of hybrid working, it is not a secure and effective method for digital communication and document distribution.

Email is the most hacked of systems and the hacking industry is on the rise, with growth estimated at 15% p.a. and rising to more than $10 trillion in 2025. Data security regulation is also now extensive and expensive, with GDPR fines, for example, reaching up to 4% of annual revenue for companies who fail to protect sensitive personal information.

Remote working has highlighted the inadequacies of scan to email. With hybrid working environments set to stay, it is time to scrutinize scan to email practices more closely and consider alternatives that are equally as convenient but resolve the issues email introduces.

Common Issues of Scan to Email

The underlying weakness of email as a system for document flow is what results in the issues with scan with email. Confidential or sensitive information is often incorrectly and insecurely distributed. By failing to guard against human error or attack from exterior forces, email’s shortcomings cause multiple issues:

  1. Lack of control of document distribution: there is no adequate restriction or management of potential document recipients, inside or outside the business, allowing information to be passed to any email address provided.
  2. Accidental Leaks of Confidential Information: keyboard errors made by a human workforce send or forward documents to the wrong person or team.
  3. Insecure Management of Documents and Copies: employees download documents to insecure locations, make copies, proliferate risk of loss, and weaken document control.
  4. Hackers Stealing Confidential Information: hackers invade email systems, open email-attached documents, and gain access to confidential or sensitive information.

Many organizations have implemented scan to email processes out of necessity, without understanding the potential issues and viable alternatives. It is understandable why this occurs, with the continuation of business processes paramount and other considerations falling to the wayside. But stepping back from the deceptive initial attractiveness of email as a transport mechanism for documents provides much needed perspective. A more effective and secure solution is needed.

Is it Safe to Scan Documents to Email?

Scanning documents to email creates insecurity that may harm your organization, and that harm may be irreversible and far reaching:

  • Data Loss

Confidential and business-sensitive information is lost through email leakage and hacking attempts.

  • Reputational Damage

Data breaches caused by email generate mistrust and unease in current customers, and consequent negative publicity deters new customers.

  • Financial Loss

Organizations which have suffered data breaches face regulatory fines and a reduction in customer revenue.

  • Inefficient Processing

Incomplete tasks and document processing failures can go unnoticed, creating disruption and delay in crucial business processes due to a lack of document-linked SLAs.

  • Lack of Transparency & Control

Scan to email does not provide sufficient audit trails of document review and processing. No reliable chain of custody is visible or manageable.

What are the Alternatives to Scan to Email?

Without sacrificing the ease-of-use and speed of adoption provided by email systems, alternatives are available that remove risk and meet the security, transparency, and manageability requirements of document-intensive businesses.

Lithe Digital Documents provides a secure platform for sharing documents within your organization, with full transparency on each document’s lifecycle and control over who can receive, view and forward documents.

By using Lithe Digital Documents instead of email, our customers remove email as a transport or distribution layer but continue to use their existing document scanning technology to achieve a secure and efficient solution that meets the needs of remote and hybrid workers.

Our cloud-based solution ensures that employees can securely access documents anytime and anywhere, and on any device whether in the office or working remotely.

Contact us now via the chat on this page or through our other contact options. We look forward to discussing how you can transform information velocity without compromising on security and accessibility.

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