Businesses face a spiralling threat from inappropriate employee use of corporate e-mail systems.
Employees are abusing free e-mail and Internet use which means threats are multiplying - from the circulation of offensive material to the downloading of pirate software, as well the loss of confidential information, illegal spam response rates and uninhibited use of Web mail.
Jokes and offensive content
Many employees consider e-mail jokes as part of modern office life and gladly receive and forward jokes and other inappropriate material via the corporate e-mail system. Yet this kind of banter can lead to serious consequences for the organisations involved.
"The circulation of offensive content leaves companies open to litigation and damage to reputation," says Brian Little, business development manager at Clearswift in SA. "What may once have been considered slightly bawdy banter could mean the company and its directors end up in very hot water."
Brian Little, business development manager at Clearswift in SA
Loss of confidential information
Protecting confidential information leaving a company is paramount. Loss via e-mail systems is known to seriously affect a company's ability to compete - and can cause major corporate embarrassment. Together with new regulations that make companies accountable for how data is stored, used and distributed, the pressure is growing for sophisticated management of the data contained in corporate e-mail systems. Organisations need to seriously consider putting in controls to restrict potentially disastrous leaks.
Web mail misuse
The unrestricted use of Web-mail opens companies to all manner of e-mail-borne threats such as viruses, Trojans and other malware, as well as providing an open back door for the invisible loss of confidential corporate information. In addition, illegal downloads via Web mail can lead to corporate liability while other frivolous importing of MP3 files and whole DVDs can clog networks and waste bandwidth and storage.
The downloading of pirate software at work - music, films, games or applications - is significant too. An increasingly net-savvy workforce knows exactly where to access counterfeit software on the Internet.
Spam response rates
"Spam is the main method used to spread viruses, gain control of computers and encourage recipients to part with their cash," notes Little. "Companies should be very concerned at the high numbers of their employees receiving and responding to spam at work.
"It means the technology they use to control this problem is not really working. And if the spam introduces malicious code, they could face significant downtime in mission critical systems, as well as the obvious drop in staff productivity from spam-clogged e-mail boxes."