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An organization keeping a watchful eye on employees during company hours is nothing new. From the introduction of the time card 120 years ago, employee monitoring has evolved from a confirmation that individuals are present and accounted for, to more detailed information about employee activities taking place during work hours. This evolution has been driven in part by the widespread use of email in the workplace, plus the growth of instant messaging, blogs and other online communication forums -- all of which expose companies to data security risks.

The boom in electronic communications and the introduction of data and privacy laws on a national and state level, require organizations to take extra measures to reduce the risks associated with outbound email and to protect corporate assets.

Email is Born

The name Vinton Cerf might not have widespread recognition, yet this individual's technical discoveries have changed the way businesses operate. A co-designer of the TCP/IP Internet network protocol, Cerf was responsible for founding the Internet, and orchestrated the first sanctioned commercial use of email in 1988.

Fast forward a few years and the use of email caught on in corporate and personal communications. While email was soon recognized as a critical business tool, it didn't take long for organizations to identify the potential risks that came along with this new form of communication. A quick click on the "send" button could create any number of corporate mishaps, with confidential data - legal documents, customer identity information, and trade secrets - being circulated, whether maliciously or accidentally, inside and outside of the organization.

In the early to mid-90s, keyword-based email filters, which scanned for specific words before an email was sent, were introduced to help organizations secure individual email messages. This marked the start of genuine enterprise concern around data security, and was followed by the availability of a range of data protection, monitoring and filtering technologies, resulting in almost 60 percent of companies implementing outbound email monitoring solutions by 2006.

Protecting Confidential Data for Email and Beyond

With a staggering 70 percent of corporate data residing in email, this channel will continue to pose the biggest threat as a means for the improper disclosure of confidential data. However, additional outbound data streams - including HTTP (i.e., blogs, web-based email, message boards), instant messaging and FTP -- can also be conduits for violations of internal communications policies, confidential information exposure or sources of regulatory risk.


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