Seventy Percent of Businesses Concerned About Data Leakage Via E-mail

"The fact that as many as half of employees have experienced that heart-stopping moment when they realize that their message is hurtling towards the wrong person shows that the human error factor is too significant to ignore."

by / November 16, 2007

According to research 70 percent of businesses are concerned about sensitive material falling into the wrong hands as a result of data leakage via e-mail. A further 50 percent of employees admit to having accidentally sent an embarrassing or sensitive e-mail to the wrong person from the workplace, demonstrating that e-mail leakage is a very real concern. Sophos, who conducted the research, notes that it can potentially cause corporate embarrassment, compliance breaches and the loss of business critical information.

Experts note that there can also be a significant financial impact from data such as customer lists, engineering information, and financial statements falling into the wrong hands. Suffering economic loss is undoubtedly the most serious potential consequence of data leakage.

"As more and more business, and indeed personal interaction, is conducted via work e-mail, the risk of slipping up and clicking send without double-checking the recipient's details is ever-growing," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The fact that as many as half of employees have experienced that heart-stopping moment when they realize that their message is hurtling towards the wrong person shows that the human error factor is too significant to ignore. Businesses would be wise to check that their e-mail security solutions have the facility to prevent this from happening by identifying when sensitive data or attachments are contained in the message, and if they don't, to consider a more water-tight alternative."

To combat the risk of leaked information, it is recommended by Sophos that companies install an e-mail security solution that enables them to scan messages for sensitive data and keywords, and that uses encryption to ensure that business critical e-mails are sent securely. Furthermore, an effective appliance will identify and block confidential attachments, including those that have had their file type altered by the sender. This will ensure that accidental e-mail loss and leakage by malicious intent are both thwarted.

"The vast majority of data leakages via e-mail are purely accidental, so companies that put a solid solution and security policy in place, and those that educate employees on responsible e-mail use, will mitigate the risks and dramatically reduce the possibility of critical data loss," said Cluley.

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