Epic email gaff: 1,300 accidentally sacked by email

Posted by MailGuard Editor on 02 May 2012 20:48:00 AEST

You can have your email system fully protected and spam-free - but nothing protects your organisation from human error.

Remember when Friday emails used to be kind of fun? Recently, for some, they weren’t.

Imagine being in the shoes of the 1,300 Aviva Investors employees who arrived at their London office last Friday, only to be informed via email that they were to pack up their desks, hand in their security keys and electronic passwords, and be marched out of the offices, never to return.

Being sacked via email may not be as bad as being dumped via text message, but it certainly has similarities. The unfortunate 1,300 were reprieved when they received a second email minutes later, explaining the message had been intended for one person only, rather than the entire office.

Aviva staff could have been forgiven for missing any humour in the situation. Since 2007, their company has restructured on several occasions and most recently, only days before the mistaken email. The company’s poor performance and financial woes would have made the wholesale sacking entirely plausible for many people.

The email instructed the soon-to-be-departed member of staff not to reveal any secrets about the company, but the whole fiasco left Aviva with egg on their corporate face.

But rather than concentrating on the content of the email, this episode – though quite amusing – really highlights the need for due diligence when it comes to sending sensitive emails. In fact, when sending any emails at all.

It’s good practice to set guidelines like making sure you check all of the recipient fields, including cc and bcc. View the entire body of the email – are you forwarding potentially sensitive information that should be clipped? Have you attached that document referred to in the email? Is the attachment password-protected (or should it be)?

Although human error can never be completely eliminated when people are involved, ensure you have an Acceptable Usage Policy and sound guidelines around the use of business email. Educate your staff about what is acceptable, as well as what is expected. Your AUP will set the must-do-and-never-do rules, whilst your guidelines will help staff to avoid costly and potentially brand-damaging mistakes like the one at Aviva.

To control how and what information flows to, from and through your organisation, you can use MailGuard’s email filtering.

Topics: Email Email Security email filtering

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