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Email security: Where are we @?

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Reg Guide Email is no longer an option in the business environment. Like many technologies that have grown by individual demand rather than organisational imposition, email crept up on corporations by stealth, becoming an essential tool before anyone cared to notice.

Which is a shame, because it's pretty rubbish really - in security terms, at least. Email is the IT equivalent of the ferret – useful in its place but never quite to be trusted, capable of the unexpected even when treated with respect. Email was invented at a time when computers existed in closed environments, and it has thus far proved itself ill-prepared to cope with the brave, new yet dangerous, interconnected world.

But still, we use email. We have no choice, because so does everyone else - even to pass messages around the office rather than standing up and asking questions over the tops of partitions.

Of course, email enables a great many things, but equally it needs to be handled with care. It's not just that it can act as a carrier for viruses, Trojans, and other malicious content (malware), there are the issues of unsolicited messages (that can be connected to phishing attacks), unacceptable use (think: sending dodgy images to one's mates), and fraudulent communications, as it is all too easy to set up an email account in someone else's name.

While there are technologies to help protect email from the worst of the threats, we need to co-ordinate such deployments with our own efforts – things like awareness training, and the simplest of protective measures (setting a PIN code on your mobile device, for example), go a long way towards reducing the risks.

If you want to know more take a look at our email security primer, which collates the best of our experience from the field. ®

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