Email Monitoring: Are You Doing It Right?

Emails, which are sent or received by employees through company-provided email accounts, are not usually considered private. Employers have the right to monitor these emails in the interest of the company. Email monitoring also helps a company to prevent data leaks, theft of trade secrets or any other malicious activity. In this post, we have discussed email monitoring in detail, its legality and things to keep in mind while formulating an email monitoring policy.

Importance of Email Monitoring

Email monitoring is important to protect your company from any untoward event that may occur due to malicious activity of your employee or external attacks such as phishing, spam etc. Below given are some possible reasons that may require you to implement employee email monitoring measures in place:    

  • By keeping tabs on an employee’s official emails, you can ensure that the employee is efficiently using company’s time. It will also help you get an insight into general workplace conditions by checking internal email communication among your employees. This can help in evaluating company policies accordingly.
  • Employees are often entrusted with sensitive business data such as trade secrets, business accounts, intellectual properties, etc. However, unscrupulous elements in your organization may compromise such data. If company emails are actively monitored, you can detect a potential threat early on and prevent the damage. 
  • Emails received from spammers/malicious senders can pose threats like phishing attacks, malware infection, social engineering scams, etc. By monitoring incoming emails, suspicious messages can be inspected closely so that a potential threat can be contained in time.

Legality of Email Monitoring  

Generally, employers have the right to monitor work emails sent or received by their employees. United States law dictates that any email an employee sends or receives on a company system is the property of the employer and can be reviewed by the company at any time. Similar laws can be found in other countries, which authorize the employer to monitor employee emails. Still, it’s a good idea to mention email monitoring in the company policy document. Intimating employees about the policy beforehand will deter them from using company email accounts for purposes other than what they are intended for.

Guidelines for an Effective Company Email Policy

Though, as an employer, you have a legal right to read your employees emails, it is still suggested to draft an effective email policy. Following are some guidelines that you can follow while formulating the policy:

  • Make it clear to all your employees that company email accounts are meant for business purposes only, and all sent and received emails are company’s property.
  • Clearly define email communication rules to minimize the risk of threats like phishing attacks. These may include encrypting emails while sharing sensitive company information and documents, avoid clicking suspicious links in emails, etc.
  • Set guidelines for retaining the emails such as what emails employees should retain, for how long, and through what process.
  • Define the actions that can be taken against employees who fail to comply with the guidelines.

How to Effectively Monitor Emails?

Follow the given guidelines to effectively monitor emails:

  • To maximize security of company’s core network, deploy SMTP servers in the perimeter network and monitor all inbound and outbound emails. You can also set up scanning services for malware, phishing attacks, spam, etc. in these servers.
  • Enable Mailbox Auditing on company mailboxes to track and record all the actions performed by a mailbox owner when logged on. These can be accessed in an event of security threat or data breach for investigation.
  • Actively look for common signs of email threats while monitoring and filtering company emails. For instance, some common signs of phishing attacks include misspelled domain names, legitimate links mixed with fake links, etc.

Even if you put an email monitoring process in place, you may encounter a data breach, phishing attack, or data exposure due to unwarranted email send outs. In such a case, you need to thoroughly investigate all the employees’ emails to find out the culprit. For this, you can take the help of a specialized email investigation tool such as Stellar Email Forensic. This advanced email analysis software offers support for multiple email platforms and message views. You can easily search for a particular email message by using the Boolean Search and Regular Expression Search functions available in the software. You can also use the tool to recover deleted emails, manage investigation case with features like bookmarks, tags, and logs. In addition, you can create detailed case reports that can be submitted as evidence in court if needed.

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