Since the purpose of doing
business offshore is to keep your affairs away from prying
eyes, it follows that, since communication between onshore
and offshore is a necessity, precautions must be taken to
preserve this privacy. Computers are a handy device for transmitting
instructions by way of electronic mail, but they are also
vulnerable to prying eyes. For those who do not use a computer,
we offer a "mail-drop" with a U.S. address. Computer
users, read on.
In the early 1900's a senior
British naval officer stuffily remarked that "gentlemen
do not read other gentlemen's mail" and therefore the
Royal Navy had no need to use codes! He was wrong, and reading
other gentlemen's mail has become something of an art form.
Electronic eavesdropping is a
highly developed science today and the advent of the Internet
has raised all sorts of ghosts and goblins in the minds of
those doing business offshore through that medium. Encryption
has become a buzz-word, but, before you rush out and put your
money down for a copy of PGP, there are a number of things
to take into consideration. The writers of books on doing
business offshore should probably be getting royalties from
the purveyors of encryption processes, most of which are,
in our opinion, of little value and may do more harm than
good in the offshore arena.
Firstly, what messages are you
going to send to your offshore managers? Most of the ones
we receive are so cryptic in themselves that they would mean
little to any third party reading them. Names are not necessary,
account numbers suffice and instructions are confirmed by
telephone. Any interceptor can clearly identify the sender
and the receiver on an E-mail so it is possible to establish
that A is talking to B offshore. However, with the volume
of E-mail traffic this is not of great interest by itself
unless there are factors to arouse suspicion.
When the listener (perhaps a
Government Agency) intercepts an encrypted message, it means,
quite clearly, that the correspondents have something to hide.
Interest is aroused even though the contents may be undecipherable.
Arousing the interest of the Authorities is the last thing
you need to do if you have an offshore business.
Secondly, few of the encryption
processes are convenient to use. Few work "on the fly"
and most need some file juggling to read or write. This is
fine if you enjoy playing at spymaster work but it is a royal
pain when it comes to running a business with any volume of
E-mail. As a courtesy to our clients we run PGP but it is
hardly our favorite way of reading our mail and it is computer
labor intensive. Since this page was first published, PGP
Version 6.5 has been introduced which is a tremendous improvement
and enables us to handle the decryption more easily. However,
HushMail, (the basic programme is free) is a vast improvement
and in fact incorporates PGP encryption in its interface.
If you feel that you need to use such a system, this is the
one to get and you can down load it for free from www.hushmail.com.
However, we will not accept instructions by way of E-mail
- we must have a signed hard copy.
The Internet is an invaluable
medium for E-mail but the possibilities for interception are
endless (each message transits a number of way-station computers,
any one of which could be a listening post and, even worse,
retain your message in its files) and your identity is there
for all the world to see no matter how many encryptions you
may make although Hushmail gets around this by the use of
(applets). Thus, when using E-mail, be discreet and keep your
message short. Cryptic messages are hard to comprehend even
when transmitted in plain language - remember the Sherlock
Holmes story of "The Dancing Men"? - Old Sherlock
was unable to decipher the first few messages because they
were too short. Only when he intercepted a long one was he
able to crack the code.
How, then, do you send your messages
in privacy? The old-fashioned telephone is pretty good. For
an Agency to get a legal wire-tap on your phone takes some
effort on their part and you must have been a very naughty
boy (or girl) to warrant that much attention. In any case,
there are plenty of devices on the market to detect whether
your phone line is being bugged.
This also means that
the fax machine is pretty secure. The only proviso is that
we recommend you turn off the header on your machine just
in case the document gets misrouted. Technically it's illegal
in the U.S. to transmit a fax without a header but we won't
tell. The routing is direct from your fax to ours with no
stops along the way, making interception virtually impossible.
From our point of view, there is the advantage that we receive
a hard copy, the only type of instructions we will accept.
For even greater privacy, we provide a toll-free number for
fax and voicemail on 011-507-265-8534.