Offensive email floods government depts: test

Government departments receive 150 viruses, 1650 spam messages and 270 messages containing 'offensive' language a year, for every 100 email users, according to Wellington-based Scientific Software and Systems (SSS), the New Zealand distributor of MIMEsweeper filtering software.

Government departments receive 150 viruses, 1650 spam messages and 270 messages containing "offensive" language a year, for every 100 email users.

These findings are the result of a test conducted by Wellington-based Scientific Software and Systems (SSS), the New Zealand distributor of MIMEsweeper filtering software.

SSS recently ran a test for three "high-profile" government departments as part of a sales pitch to show them what sort of mail they regularly receive. The test used antivirus checks and "lexical analysis" to identify vocabulary that regularly crops up in spam, jokes or rude material.

"We ran the test for eight weeks and the results were fairly conclusive," says SSS mana-ging director Bill Tonkin. None of the government departments are prepared to be named, however, or to comment on the email they receive.

The problem isn't just a governmental one, though, Tonkin says. Most companies are seeing increasing amounts of personal email, which means a lot of time is being wasted. "You can filter out image files, executables, that sort of thing because they tend to be non-work related. This isn't so much about saving computer processing effort ó the real issue is the people cost, the money you'll save on wasted time."

It doesn't take long to bring about a change in corporate culture, he says.

"Both the sender and the proposed recipient get a message explaining why the message has been filtered out ó so people stop sending stuff, and tell their friends they can't receive it."

Another company, which Tonkin will not name, scans for the word "CV" in outgoing mail. "Their server was grinding to a halt every Monday morning. They found that their contract staff spent Monday morning emailing their CVs for jobs that had been advertised over the weekend."

Using a software filter makes the process anonymous, avoiding accusations of "snooping" on people's mail, he says.

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