Application security

Corporate email systems under pressure from spam and staff abuse

More than half of corporate email messages are not work related, but rather either spam or personal communications, new research has claimed.

According to a study published today by Radicati Group, 23 percent of all messages in respondents' corporate mailboxes were personal and not work related in nature. The consulting and market research firm coupled this new study with data from an April 2005 survey that found that approximately 33 percent of corporate email is spam. Thus, the firm concluded that over 50 percent of email residing on corporate servers is not work-related.

"It is no secret that employees use their corporate email for personal matters, but the specific level was unknown," said Marcel Nienhuis, market analyst at the Radicati Group.

"These results indicate that personal use of corporate email may be higher than employers expect, representing a potentially significant loss in productivity."

The report, which was commissioned by security firm Mirapoint, also revealed that almost three quarters of respondents forward jokes, photos, video clips and other non work-related messages via corporate email to co-workers. Only 28 percent of respondents claim to "never" misuse corporate email in this manner. Moreover, 12 percent of users acknowledge sharing music files via corporate email, violating copyright laws, occupying server storage and eating large amounts of bandwidth.

With 97 percent of respondents indicating they have a personal email account, 25 percent of them admitted to regularly forwarding company email messages to personal accounts and a whopping 62 percent of respondents send business email from their personal email accounts. Reasons for this were found to vary from being as innocuous as staying on the job during an email outage or as nefarious as avoiding a paper trail with their corporate email account.

"Most employees do not mean harm when using business email," said Bethany Mayer, chief marketing officer at Mirapoint. "Despite good intentions, employees may unwittingly expose sensitive company information via working with their personal email, underscoring the need for greater outbound email filtering and policy enforcement."

The study was conducted in September 2005, exclusively surveying corporate email users.

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