Top 10 E-mail Blunders Of 2009, So Far

Proofpoint's list of the ten biggest e-mail gaffes this year shows that organizations have yet to deal with the risks of e-mail.
Here's The Sensitive Data You Didn't Ask For: An employee of Rocky Mountain Bank in Wyoming inadvertently sent a message containing confidential customer information for 1,325 individual and business accounts to the wrong Gmail account. The Bank sued Google to force it to reveal information about the Gmail user who had accidentally received the information. Fortunately for all concerned, it appears that nothing was done with the exposed information.

Pay Day: Some customers of payroll processor PayChoice reportedly fell victim to a spear-phishing scheme in September when they received an e-mail message advising them to install a browser plug-in to maintain access to the company's online portal. The installed software was malware of course. PayChoice is still investigating the incident.

Tax Warning: Britain's tax authority, HM Revenue & Customs, issued a warning in January about "the most sophisticated and prolific phishing scam that we have encountered." The phishing messages asked for bank or credit card information, ostensibly so the government could provide a tax refund. Those who complied risked "their accounts being emptied and credit cards used to their limit."

Tax Warning Strikes Again: Last month, US-CERT warned about " malicious code circulating via spam e-mail messages related to the IRS." The messages contain links or attachments which attempt to install the dangerous Zeus trojan.

Congratulations! Oops, Never Mind: UC San Diego in April managed to send an acceptance e-mail to its entire pool of freshman applicants -- 46,000 students -- instead of just notifying the 18,000 students who had actually been admitted.

The point of recounting such incidents, says Crosley, is that "even today, users still need education about inbound e-mail security issues." He adds that despite the rise in social media, e-mail remains the number one threat vector. That partly, he says, because so many social media sites send out e-mail notifications. Spammers have realized this, he says, and have taken to sending out spoofed of social media notification messages.

Organizations that didn't make the list shouldn't give up: There are still two months left before the end of the year.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-discovery. Download the report here (registration required).

Editors' Choice
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading
Kelly Jackson Higgins 2, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading