Former Green Beret Sergeant Major (retired) Karl Erickson has over 25 years of military experience — he’s been in firefights, has led combined joint task force missions, and been trusted with the protection of important officials and top-secret information. In his decades of service, he has faced all kinds of weapons and seen how they can be employed to cause as much chaos as possible.
And, he says, that one of the most powerful weapons in the world that could be used against you is that last text you sent.
“You’re reading Entrepreneur, not Factory Worker Weekly,” says Erickson. “If you’re here, it’s because you want to be the boss, you want to be a leader and be at the top. And the truth is that once you get to the top, people are going to line up to knock you down. And the first thing they’ll come for is anything you’ve written in texts or emails.”
Secure communication, according to Erickson, should be at the top of mind for any entrepreneur. Here is his advice for what you can do now to protect yourself later.
Related: How to Tell if Someone Is Lying
The big secret is that there are no secrets.
“You can buy all kinds of encryption and anti-virus software, but that does not make your communications secure at all. Understand this: the U.S. military has the best encryption in the world, and the U.S. military accepts as fact that China is reading every top-secret email we send. I’ll say that again: Everything sent via email by the U.S. government is assumed to be read by China.
“Being a civilian, you need to have that same mindset. You have to assume that everything you send will one day be read by someone you don’t want to read it. Not because of spy agencies, but because when someone comes after you, they’re going to come with their lawyers and they’re going to subpoena your emails and texts. So if you have big plans to be a big player, know that one day your emails will likely be judged in the court of law – and in the court of public opinion. And that can make or break the reputation of your company, even if the allegations aren’t true.”
Beware the attack of the clones.
“A lot of people keep shielding envelopes in their wallets to prevent information from their magnetic strips being stolen, but you can’t put one on your phone because that renders it useless. However, all of your most confidential information is on your phone: we pay for coffee with it, communicate with it, do our banking with it — we do everything with it.
“They are training people in the U.S. military to clone a phone simply by standing next to a person. Now you might say, ‘That’s high-tech NSA activity,’ but who do you think develops this technology? It ain’t the U.S. government! It’s the civilians. Across all fields of military activity, it is the civilian 100-pound heads that are developing the technology used by intelligence agencies.
“So you need to understand that if someone is coming at you, there is technology that allows them to stand next to you in line at Starbucks and not just pull data off your phone, but clone it. So then every time you make a phone call or send a text or pay for a double foo-foo latte, that clone is delivering the same information.”
Remember that emails are forever.
“Every time you write an email, remind yourself that an email is a legal document and a historical document that will live on long after you are dead. It will live in the cloud forever. So re-read! Take that extra minute and look it as if someone you don’t want to read it is reading it. Still want to hit send? On the battlefield, we worry about the enemy stealing explosives and supplies because they can use that stuff to create a dirty bomb. Your email is the same thing.”
Don’t be stupid.
“Do not ever use your work email for personal stuff. If your friend sends you a link and you click on it and it is something offensive, that can now be used against you and your company. Doesn’t matter if you knew what it was or not. There is now documentation that you visited such-and-such site and watched such-and-such video. Don’t invite that chance.
“You are the boss or want to be the boss. You are not to goofy kid sending dumb stuff back and forth with your friends. If you want to make it to the top, you have to be prepared for a lot of people who will want to knock you down. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Police yourself up. And always use the mom test: if it isn’t something you’d want your mother to see, it doesn’t belong on your professional email.”