Study: Outbound E-Mail Remains Greatest Source Of Risk For Enterprises

In its fifth-annual study of outbound e-mail and content security issues, Proofpoint Inc. 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 the greatest source of risk for U.S. enterprises with a record 44 percent of surveyed companies reporting that they investigated an e-mail leak of confidential information in the past 12 months. 41 percent of largest companies surveyed (with 20,000 or more employees) reported that they employ staff to read or otherwise analyze the contents of outbound e-mail. 22 percent of these companies said they employ staff primarily or exclusively for this purpose. Other key findings in the survey include:

  • 40 percent of companies surveyed investigated an e-mail-based violation of privacy or data protection regulations in the past 12 months.
  • 26 percent of companies surveyed terminated an employee for violating e-mail policies in the last 12 months.
  • 23 percent of U.S. companies surveyed said their business was impacted by the exposure of sensitive or embarrassing information in the last 12 months.
  • 34 percent 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, however. 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 percent 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 percent of surveyed companies disciplined employees for improper use of blogs/message boards in the past 12 months.
  • 13 percent of surveyed companies disciplined employees for social network violations and 14 percent for improper use of media sharing sites in the past 12 months.
  • 14 percent 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.

The complete report can be found at

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