About the Emails

I am so, so, so tired of Clinton’s emails.

Trump stated tonight that Clinton has no right to run for the presidency “because of what she did with emails and other things.”

Because of what she did with emails?


I know a thing or two about emails. I am a software developer and I had several email accounts years before most people in the world had ever heard the words “dot com.” Our company has run, maintained and hosted our own email servers since the beginning of its existence before 1995. I give email etiquette and security lectures to our staff on a periodic basis to remind them, mostly, that email is not secure.

And the essence of this lesson is always this:

Before you hit SEND on an email, read it one more time, and consider what you would feel like if that email were published tomorrow on the cover on the New York Times. If you’d feel fine about that, go send the email. Otherwise, erase it right now.

Anything you send via email, whether that is the text of the email itself, or an attachment, is publicly accessible. Anyone who wants to can see it, with the right skills and tools. Yes, for the most part, our emails are benign. Go ahead and check out the five photographs from Thanksgiving I am sending to my mother.

But make no mistake about it – anyone with the right tools and skills can capture your email and do anything they want to do with it, including saving it, printing it, sending it on to a thousand people, posting it on a web site (Wikileaks), and of course, if the pictures are sensitive (Anthony Weiner) post them on a porn site.

Then there is backup.

Every information technology administrator (IT guy) worth his money will back up the email server in case it crashes, dies or some other bad thing happens. Those backup files get stored offline in the cloud, or, as it was in years and decades past, on other machines, or disks and tapes that then get stored offsite in bank vaults for security.

So – when you send a naked picture of yourself to your honey – because you are so inclined, that naked picture ends up in your honey’s inbox where it hopefully stays, rather than getting posted on a porn site. But that picture could also be skimmed off your email and posted in the New York Times tomorrow by a hacker. But worse, since it’s likely going through your SENT box, there is a copy of it there. Your server backup processes copied it on tape and the IT guy has taken that tape the bank for offsite storage, or the computer has shipped it off to Amazon for cloud storage. The point is, once you hit SEND, many copies of your naked picture are in all kinds of places that you no longer have any control over.

If you have ever been subpoenaed for certain email, and you needed your IT guy’s help to retrieve and print out those emails, you will know that there are more emails in your woodwork than you could possibly read and check, and they fill up boxes and boxes very quickly. Good luck to the hapless law clerk that has to sift through them, and congratulations to the lawyer that charges you $375 per hour to read them all.

Did I say email is not secure? Perhaps you understand better now why I said that.

Now on to Trump and Clinton.

I believe Clinton was incredibly naïve, even stupid, to maintain an email server in her house. She received very, very poor advice by whoever recommended that. Notwithstanding that her predecessors, all Republican, did the same thing, it was still very ill-advised and un-informed. And whatever she was trying to achieve with that – what that was is beyond me – she did not achieve. An email server is no more secure in your house in your basement than it is anywhere else. Yes, it was probably not very secure there, and the State Department’s data center would have been a better place. Clinton knows this now. I am sure she is beating her had against the wall every day that she actually did such a stupid thing in the first place, back in the day. Unfortunately, Clinton never attended and of my email etiquette and security briefings, because if she had she would have known better.

But stupid as it was, it’s not criminal, and Trump is silly for raising it as “what bad, bad thing she did with her emails.”

Look – let’s just say Clinton didn’t have her email server in her house, but she properly used the State Department’s email system. Ok, it might have been a LITTLE harder for a hacker to get to it. But any email that she was sending was still traveling over the open Internet and it was exposed. Just remember the naked picture example I gave above.

So the problem is NOT whether Clinton had classified documents in her email in the server in her house, but whether she EVER send classified documents via email, whether that be through a server in her house or the State Department. No matter where the server sits, once the document leaves via the SEND button, it’s out there. Naked pictures everywhere.

Of course, there is such a thing as secure email. Banks and other organizations use it to send sensitive and classified information over the Internet. Those systems use encryption to protect the data. But those systems are cumbersome to use, slow, and inefficient. Not what you want to use to send pictures of Thanksgiving to your mother. She could never figure out how to open them.

So the question I have: Does Trump even understand that? It does not sound like it. Because if he did, he’d know, that just about every public servant from the lowest to the highest level is guilty as charged. People send sensitive information over email all the time without thinking about it. I am sure Trump has.

After this, I think it’s time I gave our staff another email etiquette and security briefing.

Just in case.

3 thoughts on “About the Emails

  1. I expect Mrs. Clinton has computer skills similar to mine since our ages are close. My skill with emails involves having an IT person set it up and fix as needed. I can type, read, send and delete. Not having to carry a briefcase home full of pages to read was great. In business I had a couple of hundred each week. I assume any Secretary of State has a couple of thousand plus a week. Add Apple TV at home to that and I need to have an IT person on retainer. Oh well, it’s different world. Thanks for the info.

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