6 Ways To Prevent Email Abuse

Email

Are you using email usage reports? A recent survey by Osterman Research found that less than one third of businesses filter their outbound email and that they do not have a monitoring system in place to detect email abuse. If you are one of those few companies using email usage reports, are you looking at all your outbound email or are you also checking internal emails for potential abuse?

Email usage reports don’t mean reading your users’ email. Email usage reports are used to identify issues and prevent abuse, all while still showing your users the respect they deserve and without running afoul of any privacy issues.

Email usage reports are a critical component of a company’s messaging infrastructure. Acceptable use policies, end user awareness training, and standards reviewed once a year along with the sexual harassment training and standards of professional conduct are all great ideas, but they still depend on the users to do the right thing.

If you are lucky, email abuse will just lead to volumes running out of space. If you are unlucky, abuse can lead to information leaks that can cost you your customers, your reputation, and more. All this can be prevented when using email usage reports software, here are six ways how:

1. The email server is not a file server

Small Office documents may not present a resource drain, but they do lead to nightmares of versioning and countless questions like “is this the latest version?” Email usage reports can identify the chronic abusers so you can address this with user education, and it can also help you identify how much disk space is being consumed by attachments so you can either size your SharePoint instance or forecast your email archiving needs.

2. You think that was funny, here’s an even better one!

The occasional joke email making the rounds may not be a problem, but we all know it’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye out, or rather, when someone gets offended by what someone else thinks is funny. Chronic joke and chainmail forwarding internally can escape any perimeter devices you have when the recipients are all inside. Email usage reports can show you where all that lost productivity is going, and help you avoid HR incidents.

3. I’ll just walk over or call, because they NEVER respond to emails

The only thing worse than a frustrated user who gives up on waiting for the helpdesk to respond, is the customer who gives up waiting for sales to respond and reaches out to the competition. Email usage reports can track the time between emails being received and responses set so you can be sure those SLAs are being met.

4. I’ll just send a quick email to my mom…and my sister, and my best friend from college, and my…

I’m not saying you should prohibit personal use of email; I’m just saying that sometimes, users lose track of time, and things get out of hand. Email usage reports can identify users who are pushing the limits of what is acceptable, and what has become a time sink. It can also find the users who are sending chain mails or running a sideline business out of their cubes.

5. Your application crashed? Bummer dude!

It’s easy to let the same slang we use when speaking to our peers slip into communications with our customers, especially when using email. Email usage reports can help you make sure your communications remain professional and language appropriate.

6. How did that blogger find out about our roadmap for project X?

One of the easiest ways for users to leak confidential information is through email. Whether a user is being an anonymous source, forwarding proprietary information to their personal email account, or trying to set themselves up for a job with the competition, email usage reports make finding and sealing data leaks while they are merely dripping easy, and helps forestall a pipeburst of lost secrets.

Email usage reports not only provide insight into how users are actually using your email system, it also helps identify issues – this lets you address them before they become cases of major email abuse. Simple to deploy, simple to manage, and transparent to the users, email usage reports let you control your business’ data, while still respecting your users’ privacy.

Emmanuel Carabott CISSP heads security research at GFI Software. He has over 12 years’ experience in the security field and is a regular contributor to several websites and blogs. For more information about the benefits of using email usage reporting.