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E-Mail Spills Corporate Secrets

Six percent of workers admitted that they've E-mailed confidential company information to someone they shouldn't have, according to a study released Monday, while 62% said they've used their personal accounts for business purposes to circumvent controls placed on their business accounts.

Six percent of workers admitted that they've e-mailed confidential company information to someone they shouldn't have, according to a study released Monday by messaging research firm the Radicati Group.

"While 6 percent may seem like a small number, in a 10,000-user organization, it translates to 600 employees leaking intellectual property," said Sara Radicati, president of Radicati, in a statement. "It only takes one e-mail to leak critical trade secrets that can cripple an organization's business strategy."

Other findings from the survey included another disconcerting trend: the majority of corporate employees circumvent company e-mail controls by using their personal e-mail accounts.

Sixty-two percent of those polled admitted to sending business messages from their personal accounts; 25 percent said that they regularly forwarded mail from their business to their personal account.

Although Radicati and Mirapoint, an e-mail security vendor which co-sponsored the poll, said that the bulk of such business-to-personal messaging was probably benign, all it takes is one bad seed to ruin a business.

"To stay productive during an email outage, an employee might use a personal email account to continue to conduct urgent business," said Bethany Mayer, Mirapoint's chief marketing officer, in an associated statement. "On the other hand, there are less than innocent reasons that an employee might use their personal e-mail account. To avoid abuses, organizations should have strict usage policies and employ technology solutions to curtail [such] activities."

Offensive language in e-mail continues to pose a threat to corporations, even after years of warnings that profane or suggestive messages can be a legal risk. Seventy percent of those polled have received offensive messages in their business inboxes, while 42 percent have received mail containing foul language from co-workers or business associates.

"Some companies haven't set [e-mail] policies or haven't done a good job educating users on existing policies," said Mayer.

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