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Faxes: The Achilles Heel In Your Compliance Armor

Just about anyone who has read Greek mythology (or seen the Brad Pitt movie Troy) is familiar with the story of Achilles. He was a mighty warrior who was destined to lead the Greeks against the Trojans in the battle for the abducted Helen. And to die there.

Perhaps the best-known part of the story is that his mother tried to protect him by dipping him into the river Styx in the Underworld, where all but the heel she used to hold him became invulnerable. Of course, as Murphy’s Law dictates, eventually an arrow found his heel and he died in battle anyway.

The point of the story is that no matter how carefully we plan, and no matter how much we try to protect ourselves from harm, it’s important not to overlook the simple things that may seem insignificant on the surface but may be our undoing in the end.

This is a particularly important lesson for those charged with assuring that their organization meets Section 404 and other requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Because despite the many intricate and hardened systems that are put in place to secure electronic documents and verify the accuracy of their contents, there is a gaping vulnerability in almost every system: the fax machine.

Think about it. What types of documents are normally sent via fax rather than e-mail? Normally they are legal documents, such as contracts, letters of agreement, purchase orders, submitted RFPs, and other documents that require a signature for verification. In other words, they are key documents that affect both the financial and legal health of the organization.

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