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Risk

5/20/2008
08:34 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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E-Mail Security And Compliance Not Taken Seriously

Forget viruses and spam as threats to e-mail. Those as so last century. And phishing attacks tend to take money from those who may not be smart enough to hold onto theirs. I mean, who clicks on an e-mail link and starts entering sensitive financial information? That leaves regulatory compliance, lawsuits, and data leakage as the big threats.

Forget viruses and spam as threats to e-mail. Those as so last century. And phishing attacks tend to take money from those who may not be smart enough to hold onto theirs. I mean, who clicks on an e-mail link and starts entering sensitive financial information? That leaves regulatory compliance, lawsuits, and data leakage as the big threats.So why are so many companies so inefficient at tackling these risks? According to a survey released today by Forrester Consulting, and commissioned by e-mail security vendor Proofpoint, a considerable amount of companies are a bit jittery about what just might be in your sent folder. From the survey:

Top concerns 2008: 75% of U.S. companies are "concerned" or "very concerned" about protecting the confidentiality of personal identity and financial information in outbound e-mail. 70% are "concerned" or "very concerned" about ensuring compliance with financial disclosure or corporate governance regulations. 68% are "concerned" or "very concerned" about ensuring that e-mail cannot be used to disseminate company trade secrets or valuable intellectual property.

These are the very top concerns, survey respondents said. So what are they doing about it? They're hiring people to read over the e-mails.

That's right. A good portion of companies are manually examining e-mail to see if they can find e-mail policy violations. The only thing I can think of to be more wasteful would be manually examining network packets as they cross the wire:

41% of U.S. companies with 20,000 or more employees surveyed employ staff to read or otherwise analyze outbound e-mail. Overall, more than one quarter (29%) of U.S. companies surveyed employ such staff. 22% of U.S. companies with 20,000 or more employees surveyed employ staff whose primary or exclusive job function is to read or otherwise monitor outbound e-mail content.

Is it me, or is this a total waste of time? In this age of content filters and Data Leak Protection suites, you'd think more companies would be using these types of tools to automate outbound e-mail analysis. For instance, e-mail can be vetted for text strings that would resemble credit card numbers. Certain terms can be automatically flagged (and even rejected by the outbound e-mail server).

While this type of content inspection and DLP software isn't perfect, it'd have to be much more effective than manually evaluating e-mail.

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