How much do you know about email?

email button on keyboard

Whether at home, or at work, it is safe to say that email has become a pervasive part of our every day, so much so, that many businesses cannot function properly without a live connection. But just how much do we know about email, how much do we take for granted, or what risks does it actually pose to business?

In order to answer this, I thought I would look into the underbelly of the world of email to see what I could uncover and share with you. What I found was quite fascinating.

Email volumes are staggering:

  • In 2010, in an average day, there were around 294 billion emails sent per day or 2.8million messages per second! (Radicati)
  • In 2011, it is estimated the average business email account will send and receive 105 emails per day. Approximately 20% of these will be spam or greymail. (Radicati Group, Email Statistics report 2011-2015)

Access to email is ever evolving:

  • By the end of this year, estimates suggest that there will be 531 million wireless email users accessing email remotely. This figure will rise to over 1.2 billion by year-end 2015.

Security continues to be an issue:

  • In December 2010 Gawker Media had their servers hacked. The passwords of 1 million accounts were stolen and exposed online. A large sample (nearly 20%) of these passwords were then analysed to see trends in password security. What came out was somewhat scary, as the most common passwords showed a flagrant disregard for security. As an organisation, this is something that you should watch out for, as easy to crack passwords can let others into your network. The most common passwords revealed were:
    • 123456
    • password
    • qwerty
    • letmein

Email engagement continues to be high

  • Exact Target found in their 2010 report “Subscribers, Fans, and Followers: The Social Profile” that email continues to be the most highly engaging digital medium with users on average interacting with 11.8 brands as compared to 9.4 brands for Facebook and 7.9 brands for Twitter.

Spam and phishing success rates continue to be too high

  • As stated above, approximately 20% of all email (citing Radicati) is spam and every second approximately 560,000 spam emails will be sent. Research by different firms has found the success rate – determined as interaction with the message itself – of spam email to be as low as 0.00000008% and as high as 2%. If we use the lower figure of 0.00000008%, then in any given minute of the day, 2.69 people will interact with a spam message. That is over 120 an hour! An astounding figure really.
  • Unfortunately, phishing statistics prove to be much worse in financial terms. In America alone, figures for non-corporate America (ie excluding the hacking of Citibank etc) is estimated at as much as $400million per year. Add in the corporate cost which runs into the multiple hundreds of millions as well and phishing is too expensive to ignore.

Management of spam as a result is surprisingly high

  • Nucleus research found that on average, an employee will spend 16 seconds reviewing and deleting each spam message that they receive.
    • This means that per year, an employee will spend approximately 13.7 hours managing spam, not including time spent removing malicious code
    • In a company of 6 people, that equates to nearly 2 working weeks lost per year managing spam

Miscellaneous facts

  • Email from unknown sources (generally hackers and spammers) often comes laden with malware, or links to sites with malicious code. If you do not have a solid platform for filtering this spam and malware, then you may be infecting your network. Just one infected computer can affect the network without you even knowing. For example, a compromised computer (ie a computer that has been infected with Malware) on your network may be used by hackers for the purposes of sending out spam from your IP.
    • Over a short period of time this will likely result in your IP being blacklisted which then has dramatic effect on potential marketing campaigns or email campaigns which your company undertakes.
    • Google has a sense of humour when it comes to spam. Did you realise that when you view the spam folder, where the usual Web clips sits, they have instead put in recipes for cooking spam in the web clips area instead of other information.
  • A newer protocol – AMQP – has been developed as an alternative to SMTP. As yet, it has not been widely accepted by the masses, although organisations such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, iMatix Corporation and Barclays (to name but a few) have implemented the newer protocol. The advantages and disadvantages have been debated for years by experts, however, slowly the tide seems to be turning to more advantages than disadvantages.
    • One of the biggest advantages is the fact that it provides interoperability between various technologies and platforms and in itself supports email and Instant messaging.

There is no denying that email is an essential part of life – for both businesses and the individuals that are their consumers. However, management of email is essential and can help improve business efficiency. In fact mismanagement of email can actually cost a business both time and money. It is up to managers to encourage good email hygiene and to implement robust network and email security.

Once this is done, then indeed, email can again maintain its role as a valuable tool in the arsenal of businesses.

  • David Ingham

    Just to correct one thing, AMQP is not attempting to be an alternative to SMTP. Rather, it’s a binary, wire-level, message-oriented-middleware protocol for machine-to-machine messaging. See http://www.amqp.org for more information. Best regards, Dave.

    • http://www.enbox.com.au Hamish Anderson

      Hi David,

      Yup you are right, I was trying to put into more basic terms, but in fact should have stuck to the facts.
      As David Said, AMQP will never be an alternative to SMTP they work on different levels one is machine-to-machine and gives realtime diagnostics and realtime processing.

      Apologies all, and thanks David!

  • https://www.cloaklet.com/ Mark Anderson

    First off, Hamish – I love your name. I wonder if we share Scottish ancestors ;)

    Email is a terribly insecure platform for communicating. People use it without considering the risks because most of the time the contents of their emails are trivial. But they end up using email with the same disregard for the security risks when sending critical or private material.

    Companies are still using email to send employment contracts, corporate secrets, share price affecting notes and other bits of data that they would certainly not want in the open. That’s why we created Cloaklet.com – a free service that provides end-to-end security communications.

    Worth checking out if email security is on your horizon.