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Big Brother Is Watching Your Email

WMFY News | June 14, 2005

Undated -- Proofpoint's 2005 survey of 332 technology decision-makers at large US companies reveals growing concern over sensitive information leaving the enterprise through outbound email.

Smaller companies employ people to monitor outbound email at nearly the same rate as larger companies.

Respondents estimated that almost 25% of outbound email contains content that poses a legal, financial or regulatory risk.

Twenty-seven percent of companies have terminated an employee due to email misuse in the past year.

In its 2005 study on outbound email security and content issues, email security vendor Proofpoint, Inc. found that 63% of corporations with 1,000 or more employees either employ or plan to employ staff to read or otherwise analyze outbound email.

More than a third of companies employ staff to monitor email today with another 26.5% saying they intend to employ such staff in the future.

In the largest companies (those with more than 20,000 employees) this practice is even more common, with 40% employing staff to monitor email today and an additional 32% plan to employ such staff in the future.

These results indicate the rising prominence of outbound email as a source of risk for corporations.

Specifically, companies are most concerned about ensuring that email is not used to leak company trade secrets or other forms of intellectual property.

They are also concerned with compliance with corporate email policies and compliance with financial disclosure regulations.

They say that they also want to insure that email ca not be used to leak confidential internal memos.

Respondents also expressed an increasingly high degree of concern about compliance with healthcare and financial privacy regulations, such as HIPAA and Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

Other key findings from the survey, which was fielded by Forrester Consulting, include:

More than 1 in 3 companies investigated a suspected email leak of confidential information in the last 12 months.

More than 1 in 4 companies have fired an employee for violating email policies in the last 12 months.

More than half have disciplined an employee for violating email policies in the last 12 months.

More than 1 in 10 companies were ordered to produce employee email to a court or regulatory body in the last 12 months.

Respondents estimated that nearly 1 in 4 outbound emails contains content that poses a legal, financial or regulatory risk to their organizations.

About half of the largest companies say it is "very important" to reduce the risks associated with outbound email in the next 12 months.

Beyond corporate email, IT professionals are most concerned about web-based email as a source of risk, followed by instant messaging.

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