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We were all treated this week to a lovely example of why it's a good idea to use standard email for government business (or corporate business, for that matter).

First, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin mentioned that she used Yahoo Mail for some of her email, which is a problem in and of itself. Second, her email was promptly hacked, using information she and her husband had provided to the media.

Gosh. Where to start.

In general, it's a good idea to have all the business operated through the email system of the business. It helps make clear what's business and what's personal. It makes sure that email is backed up properly in case of a problem. It makes it easier to track what happened, especially after the fact if there's some sort of issue. It helps protect the security of the information.

This is particularly true in the case of government, where there are laws about making certain information public, keeping other information private, and restrictions on which people can do what sorts of things, such as government employees working on campaigns.

This became even more of an issue in 2006, when the rules for electronic evidence in civil judiciary proceedings changed. Judges are now a lot more stringent on making electronic information available, and heavy fines can be levied on organizations that don't comply. And lest people say, "Oh, that's government, that's different," that's not at all the case; governments are subject to civil law as well.

Next there's the issue of revealing to the national media which email system it is. Yahoo Mail uses a password system that enables users to reset a password by answering a couple of security questions. The thing is, the answers to the questions Sarah Palin used were based on information that she and her husband had been providing to the media, so it was pretty easy for someone to hack it.

So take this as a lesson -- don't do that.

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