How email security auditing supports compliance

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2023 saw a 72% increase in data breaches since 2021. Unsurprisingly, evolving data protection laws place great emphasis on the secure transfer of data via email. 

Email auditing is a pivotal strategy in supporting compliance with diverse regulations, enabling security leaders to report on how and where data is shared. Let’s delve a little deeper.

Assessing the impact of a data loss event 

With its stringent consent and privacy mandates, the GDPR sets a high standard for data protection. The GLBA focuses on ensuring the confidentiality and security of consumer financial information, while the NIS2 and DORA aim to bolster the cybersecurity framework and operational resilience of digital systems within the EU, reflecting the growing emphasis on digital infrastructure's security and integrity.

Organizations globally face the common challenge of monitoring and securing the vast amounts of sensitive data that traverse their email systems daily. This is why email auditing is crucial; it provides a systematic approach for tracking, monitoring, and analyzing email behavior. 

If a potential incident/data leak has happened, the DPO or privacy officer needs to assess the impact of the incident to determine if the incident needs to be reported to the Data Protection Authority (DPA) and/or data subject. 

If there is potential negative impact for the data subject, the incident must be reported to the DPA; if there is potential severe negative impact on the data subject, it must be reported to the DPA and to the data subject itself. 

The impact of an incident is determined by:

  • The sensitivity of the data that was leaked 
  • Assessment of how the data could be used 'against' the data subject (blackmail, profiling, reputational damage)
  • If the unauthorized recipient has opened the message and accessed the data 
  • If the message was revoked before the unauthorized recipient could access the data 
  • The number of unauthorized recipients involved- the more people who received it, the more likely there is to be a negative impact on the data subject
  • If the unauthorized recipient potentially already has access to this data in another way - if so, this lowers the impact.


Reporting on data loss incidents with email security software

According to global data protection agencies, including the UK’s ICO, human error remains the leading cause of data loss events. Mistakes happen; misuse of bcc, sending data to the wrong recipient, failure to revoke sensitive information before sharing, to name a few. 

Identifying and managing data leaks relies on access to timely and reliable data. Comprehensive email auditing empowers organizations to monitor the real-time monitoring of data flows, automated alerts of suspicious activities, and generate detailed reports for compliance verification. In practice, this requires integrated solutions that enable employees to:

  • Ascertain whether emails were sent with the appropriate levels of encryption
  • Evidence to data protection agencies what controls are in place to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information
  • Identify which emails have been accessed, forwarded and recalled
  • Identify whether a data leak has occurred or been avoided
  • Provide a presentable report on leaks and actions taken to control and/or manage an incident to data protection authorities

As global legislation evolves to address the complexities of the digital age, the role of email auditing in supporting compliance and protecting sensitive information has never been more critical. A proactive approach to email security and auditing not only fulfills legal obligations but also fortifies trust and reliability.

We empower over 8000 organizations globally to meet their data protection responsibilities with integrated email and file transfer solutions, complete with intuitive reporting and auditing capabilities. Get in touch to find out how we can support you.

First published -
Last updated - 09/04/24
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