Is Your Boss Reading Your E-Mail?
Be careful what you say in that work e-mail you're about to send -- an increasing percentage of companies are employing people and systems to pore over outbound e-mails for proprietary and sensitive corporate information, according to a new report from Proofpoint, an e-mail security company based in Cupertino, Calif.
The study, conducted for Proofpoint by Forrester Consulting, surveyed 332 "e-mail decision makers" at U.S. companies with more than 1,000 employees. (You can get the study by following the link above, but you'll have to cough up some information about yourself first.)
The study found more than a third of companies employ staff to read or analyze outbound e-mail, with more than 40 percent of companies with 20,000 employees or more reporting that they do this. Many of the companies that said they don't currently monitor employee e-mail say they soon will, with one-third of this group reporting that they plan to hire people to scrutinize their employees' e-mail communications.
The study offers the rather obvious analysis that as more reports surface about employees sharing (or selling) insider information, companies will increasingly monitor outgoing e-mails to ensure the employees aren't undermining their employer's best interests or internal corporate e-mail policies.
The companies surveyed by Forrester estimated that nearly a quarter of all outbound e-mail contains content that poses "a legal, financial or regulatory risk." So if nearly 25 percent of companies know this, it shouldn't come as a surprise that just as many said they have fired an employee for violating internal e-mail policies in the past 12 months. Fully half of those asked said they had warned or disciplined an employee for breaking official e-mail rules.
As this interesting and entertaining thread over at Slashdot points out, companies are also concerned about employee use of Web-based e-mail services, which can pose a security risk not only from employees using it to send sensitive corporate information, but it can also be a gateway for e-mail worms, viruses and other cyber-bugs that would otherwise be caught by a company's cyber-security systems. As one Slashdot reader writes, companies know that savvy employees can always log on to a secure Webmail service like Google's Gmail and their employer would never know what they are sending.
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