Many Large Employers Report Email Leaks

May 23, 2008 ( - Not only is Big Brother watching, he apparently has helpers on the payroll.

Outbound email remains a key source of risk for U.S. enterprises with a record 44% of companies surveyed by Proofpoint, Inc., an email security and data loss prevention provider, reporting that they investigated an email leak of confidential information in the past 12 months, according to the report. Nearly half (41%) of the largest companies surveyed – those with 20,000 or more employees – reported that they employ staff to read or otherwise analyze the contents of outbound email.

In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) of these companies said they employ staff primarily or exclusively for this purpose, according to the firm’s fifth-annual study of outbound email and data loss prevention issues.

The survey also noted that:

  • 40% of companies surveyed investigated an email-based violation of privacy or data protection regulations in the past 12 months.
  • 26% of companies surveyed terminated an employee for violating email policies in the last 12 months.
  • 23% of U.S. companies surveyed said their business was impacted by the exposure of sensitive or embarrassing information in the last 12 months.
  • 34% of the largest companies (20,000 employees or more) reported that employee email was subpoenaed in the last 12 months.

Respondents to the survey indicated significant risk resulting from employee use of blogs, message boards and media sharing sites (such as YouTube), as well as mobile devices. Some of the findings include:

  • 27% of companies surveyed had investigated the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information from lost or stolen mobile devices in the past 12 months.
  • 11% of U.S. companies surveyed disciplined employees for improper use of blogs/message boards in the past 12 months.
  • 13% of surveyed companies disciplined employees for social network violations and 14% for improper use of media sharing sites in the past 12 months.
  • 14% of publicly traded companies surveyed had investigated the exposure of material financial information (such as unannounced financial results) on blogs or message board postings in the last 12 months.

Proofpoint's 2008 survey asked 301 email decision makers at U.S. companies with more than 1000 employees about a variety of data loss concerns and the actions they take to mitigate risks of data loss. Proofpoint's 2008 survey also included 123 European and Australian enterprises to assess global concerns about outbound email and related risks.

You can download a free copy of Proofpoint's complete report, Outbound Email and Data Loss Prevention in Today's Enterprise, 2008 (registration is required) at .