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Content Filtering Options Proliferate

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • A disgruntled manufacturing employee prints out a secret formula for her company's product and faxes it to the competition.
  • An administrator in a hospital's admissions department emails his list of patient data to another department, breaching HIPAA security rules.
  • A salesman at a retail cellphone store pilfers a customer's Social Security number while upgrading her service on the store's computer.
  • An engineer IMs his wife, also an engineer, with details about a project he's working on late at the office.
  • An account representative at a pharmaceutical firm downloads a list of client data to his laptop before walking off the job.

All of these can and do happen with enough regularity that a new market segment's arisen to deal with them. Products are emerging in what's generally called the content monitoring and filtering arena to help IT pros ensure that in-house messaging won't have unpleasant or even catastrophic consequences.

Much of this is new territory for many companies. One systems administrator at a Pennsylvania hospital had a typical reaction after an internal audit showed several emails contained information that could have gotten the facility in trouble with regulators. "That audit was a real eye-opener for us," said Jeri Sample of Meadville Medical Center in a prepared statement earlier this year. "The possibility of the HIPAA violations quickly justified the cost of buying a solution to handle the problem."

The solution the Meadville team chose was from an outfit called Proofpoint, which specializes in anti-spam and virus control and recently added a module called Proofpoint Regulatory Compliance to its wares. The software, working on a dedicated appliance, controls messages going out of the organization as well as those coming in.

Other IT pros, making their own disconcerting discoveries, are taking similar action. Roger McIlmoyle, director of technical services at TLC Vision, a multi-site laser eye-surgery provider based in Mississauga, Ontario, says he started looking for a product after he realized that "some staff may actually be emailing information that in my opinion should not be sent in the clear over the Internet."

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