U.S. corporations massively read employee e-mail

In its fifth-annual study of outbound e-mail and data loss prevention issues, Proofpoint found that large enterprises continue to incur risk from – and take action against – information leaks over outbound e-mail, as well as newer communications media such as blogs, message boards, media sharing sites and mobile devices.

Outbound e-mail remains a key source of risk for U.S. enterprises with a record 44% of surveyed companies reporting that they investigated an e-mail leak of confidential information in the past 12 months. 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 e-mail. 22% of these companies said they employ staff primarily or exclusively for this purpose. Other key findings in the survey include:

  • 40% of companies surveyed investigated an e-mail-based violation of privacy or data protection regulations in the past 12 months.
  • 26% of companies surveyed terminated an employee for violating e-mail 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 e-mail was subpoenaed in the last 12 months.

E-mail is not the only source of risk for information leakage. 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 key 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.

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