Oops, I sent an important email to the wrong recipient. What now?

Oops, I sent an important email to the wrong recipient. What now?

An important email to the wrong person: it happens more often than we might realize. That is why it is not strange that this is one of the most frequently asked questions. Because yes, sending emails is simply a common occurrence and sometimes it seems like an automated process. After answering emails from, for example, employees, we often compose an email ourselves in between as well. And then it often appears to go wrong: before we realize an email has been sent to the wrong recipient. Oops, what now?

The answer depends on several things. Do you make use of a secure email solution? Then the chance is high that there is a possibility to recover this mistake. If you do not do this already, then it is a good idea to start thinking about it.

How the retrieval of an email can prevent a data breach

Within the market we often hear stories about things that go wrong when sending an email. Think in this case about selecting the wrong recipient through auto-fill or the “answer all”-function, which then leads to the wrong persons being able to view information.

One of the examples came from healthcare. Employee X had accidentally sent a file to a colleague, who was not authorized to view it. Fortunately, this healthcare facility was provided with a secure email solution, which made it possible to block the sent file. Before the recipient had the opportunity to view the message, it was already blocked. In this case, it was a blessing in disguise.

There are several solutions in the market that make this possible:

  • Emails can be recalled from within Microsoft 365 of Microsoft Exchange. This is only the case concerning a recipient within the same organization and if the message has not been read.
  • In Gmail, it is possible to retrieve a message within a 30-second window after sending it. The disadvantage is that a mistake can only be resolved, right after it has been made. Oftentimes, we are not aware of this straightaway.
  • SmartLockr has the possibility to follow messages and view the delivery status. If necessary, a file, recipient, as well as an entire email message can be blocked.

The consequences of a wrongly sent email.

In the case you are not as lucky, there can be certain consequences which require you to act and follow steps:

  • Send an email in which you apologize for what has happened. This does not only come across as professional, but with this you show you understand the seriousness of the error.
  • Inform your customers, regardless of the seriousness of the breach, about what has happened.
  • It is possible you lose a customer.
  • You could lose your job if the breach has detrimental consequences for the organization or
  • Nothing happens, as you did not report the breach.

Naturally, the last case depends on what you sent. If this were to concern an invite for the company party, then at most you may have more persons show up.

However, if this concerns sensitive information such as personal data, then it is seriously important to handle this properly. In short, we can divide it into severe financial consequences and damage when it comes to reputation. As a result, the costs of a data breach can get high and the person who caused the breach can be labeled as nonchalant. Nobody enjoys carrying such a label, especially when this could be brought up at a job interview in the future.

Whether the breach must be reported to the supervisory authority depends on several things. Check here the authority you must report to. 

Tips that help you mail securely

You cannot be too careful when exchanging sensitive information. An accident is always just around the corner. We therefore provide you with these tips:

  • Understand where it went wrong, to prevent repetition.
  • Limit the consequences, by promptly taking action when something has gone wrong. Check whether the breach has to be reported withing 72 hours to the Dutch Data Protection Authortity and instantly contact the recipient.
  • Make use of a secure email solution that helps you communicate safely as a user. Assess whether there are options that limit errors during the entire email process.

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