Why Email Is Not A Secure Way to Share CAD Files and Other Sensitive Product Design IP

August 10th, 2023
Email Sharing for CAD Blog Image

In the fast-paced world of digital communication, email remains one of the most popular methods of sharing files and information. This applies to a variety of fields, including Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and other areas that involve Intellectual Property (IP) related to product design. But how secure is this practice? In this comprehensive blog post, we'll delve into the pitfalls of using email for such purposes and explore the various options you have for ensuring your files remain confidential and secure.

The Problem with Email Security

While the ease of attaching files via email and hitting "Send" is alluring, the email security protocols in use today are not robust enough to protect sensitive CAD files. Popular email sites like Gmail, for example, although generally considered secure for everyday use, are not immune to security issues. Gmail security focuses on preventing phishing and malware attacks but doesn't provide end-to-end encryption by default, making it vulnerable to various forms of attack. 

Abnormal Security Risks

When you send an email attachment, the data can be intercepted and accessed by unauthorized entities during its journey across the internet. Whether you're using Gmail, Outlook, or other email providers, abnormal security events like "man-in-the-middle" attacks can expose your sensitive files.

Encrypted Email Is Not Always the Solution

You might think that using encrypted email can solve the problem. However, encrypted email options like Mailfence email, Proofpoint encryption, or even Gmail encrypt email features, only secure the contents of the email. If the recipient's email secureserver is compromised, or if they fall for a phishing scam and provide their login details, the encryption won't help.

Additional Concerns

Large File Size and How to Email Large Files

CAD files are often large and exceed the size limits for attachments in many email platforms. The size of CAD files frequently exceeds the attachment limits imposed by many email providers. For example, Gmail's attachment limit is 25MB, while Outlook allows up to 20MB. While there are methods on how to send large files via email, such as compressing the files or using third-party services, this further complicates the security aspects. 

CAD files are not only large but also subject to multiple revisions throughout the design process. Each new revision of a CAD file necessitates another round of compressing, attaching, and sending, thereby adding further complexity to an already cumbersome process. This iterative cycle not only complicates project management but also introduces additional vulnerabilities, making the sensitive CAD data even more susceptible to security risks.

The Risk of Reverse Engineering and Uncontrolled Distribution

One concern that is especially pertinent for CAD professionals is the risk of reverse engineering and uncontrolled distribution when sharing files via email attachment. Once an email with a CAD file attachment is sent, the recipient has possession of the file, which can then be used for unauthorized purposes, such as reverse engineering the design. Additionally, nothing stops the recipient from forwarding that email, intentionally or unintentionally, to other parties, including potential competitors or other suppliers. This creates a significant security risk, as the original sender has no control over who gains access to their design once it's been sent. This is a glaring vulnerability that cannot be remedied by even the most secure email providers or encrypted email solutions. Therefore, a specialized platform like Jinolo, which allows granular access control, becomes invaluable in maintaining the integrity and security of your sensitive CAD files.

Microsoft Account Team Email and Fake Email Risks

Phishing scams can be incredibly sophisticated. You might receive an email that looks like it's from Microsoft Account Team or other reputable services, asking you to confirm your account details for security purposes. If you fall for this, your files and your account security are at risk.

Compliance Issues: HIPAA and More

In various industries, strict regulations govern how sensitive information, including CAD files, should be handled and shared. For instance, the healthcare sector requires compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which mandates rigorous security measures for sharing electronic protected health information (ePHI). CAD files used in medical device design would fall under this purview, making the use of non-compliant email platforms a risky endeavor. Failure to adhere to such regulations can result in hefty fines and legal repercussions, not to mention the potential reputational damage that could ensue.

Additionally, sectors like aerospace, automotive, and defense have their own set of regulations and standards concerning data security and integrity. These often require end-to-end encryption, secure access controls, and detailed tracking of who has accessed the information, when, and what changes were made. Traditional email services, even when offering encrypted email options, usually can't meet these stringent requirements. This makes the use of specialized, compliant platforms like Jinolo not just a best practice, but often a legal necessity for responsible data handling and sharing.

Alternatives to Email

Secure Email Providers and Secure Mail Services

Services like ProtonMail and Tutanota offer more robust encryption options but bear in mind that both the sender and recipient must use the secure email service for the encryption to work effectively.

Web Mail Secure Server Options

There are specialized web mail secure server solutions designed for transferring large and sensitive files securely.

Use of Enterprise Solutions

Office 365 encrypted email and Secure Email Outlook are examples of enterprise-level services that offer added layers of security. However, their effectiveness still relies on user awareness and proper use.

Account Recovery and Security

Always keep your recovery options updated for services like Gmail account recovery and security, or Microsoft's account security options, so that you can regain control of your account if compromised.

Email Security Best Practices

  1. Secure Your Email: Whether it's Gmail, Outlook, or another provider, use strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

  2. Check Spam Filter: Regularly check your spam filter for important, legitimate emails that may have been wrongly classified.

  3. Think Before You Click: Be extremely cautious about clicking on links or opening attachments, even if they appear to come from trusted sources.

  4. Use Dedicated Platforms: For sharing CAD files or sensitive IP, use dedicated, secure platforms designed for this purpose.

Jinolo for CAD File Sharing and Security

When it comes to sharing sensitive CAD files and product design IP, choosing a specialized platform is crucial for maintaining security and control. This is where Jinolo shines as a next-level solution for industrial designers and engineers. 

Security First, Always

At Jinolo, the security of your data is our top priority. We understand the vulnerabilities associated with traditional methods of sharing CAD files—be it through email attachment or even encrypted email solutions. That's why we've taken extra steps to ensure our platform is as secure as possible. All files uploaded to Jinolo are encrypted using state-of-the-art security protocols, going well beyond the encryption methods used by most secure email providers.

More Than Just a Secure Platform

While platforms like secure mail services or even enterprise solutions like Office 365 encrypted email offer added layers of security, they lack the specialized features necessary for seamless CAD collaboration. Jinolo allows you to upload 3D CAD models and share them with anyone—be it suppliers, clients, or reviewers—simply by using a link or inviting them to the file. This eliminates the need for third-party software, as the files can be viewed directly in the browser. But that’s not all—our platform also allows users to add comments in the chat or directly in the 3D space, making the review and modification process more efficient.

Granular Access Controls

One of the unique features of Jinolo is the control it gives you over who has access to your files and what kind of access they have. You can specify whether a user can only view the file or has the permission to download it. This level of granular control is often missing from even the most secure email outlook or Gmail encryption features, making Jinolo a superior option for anyone serious about the security of their CAD files and IP.

Email may be a convenient method for sending files, but when it comes to sensitive data like CAD files and other product design IP, it's far from the most secure. Whether you're considering Gmail encryption, secure email providers, or even enterprise solutions like Office 365 encrypted email, know that each has its limitations and vulnerabilities. The key lies in not just choosing a secure platform but also in using it wisely and cautiously. Always remember, the security of your intellectual property should never be compromised.