SOURCE: Proofpoint, Inc.

October 20, 2008 08:00 ET

Proofpoint Identifies Top 10 Terrifying Email Blunders of 2008

Presidential Spam, Space Viruses and Backscatter Cause Messaging Mayhem

SUNNYVALE, CA--(Marketwire - October 20, 2008) - What do Halloween and a sent email have in common? Both can be equally frightening, according to Proofpoint (, the leading provider of unified email security, archiving and data loss prevention solutions. With Halloween lurking around the corner, Proofpoint has identified some of the scariest email issues of 2008.

These blunders, attacks and mishaps have caused sleepless nights and financial peril for consumers, corporate executives, politicians and of course, email and IT administrators.

In no particular order, Proofpoint highlights some of this year's email mishaps below:

1.) Phishing Fiasco

In September, it was reported that cyber-criminals were launching fake sites for charities and asking unsuspecting consumers for donations to help in the hurricane disaster efforts. With any phishing site, people can be tricked and treated into revealing financial information and often discover the fraud after it is too late.(1)

The Proofpoint Attack Response Center reports that "themed" phishing attacks continue with the latest threats preying on consumer concerns around the global financial crisis.

2.) Preying on Palin's Email

A hacker breached the personal Yahoo! account of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and revealed portions of its content on a site called Wikileaks. Security experts note that it can be fairly simple for a determined person to hack into a personal email account, but concerns have been raised about Palin using her personal email for business issues.(2) David C. Kernell, son of Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell, was indicted earlier this month in the case.

3.) Obama's Unsightly Spam

A malicious spam email spread in September claiming to have a link to a sex video of Obama, but instead included spyware to steal sensitive data from the victim's computer.(3) Current events and sensational news headlines -- both real and fictional -- remain popular subject lines for phish and spam attacks because of their potential to lure recipients into opening the email or its attachments.

4.) Emails: Dead and Buried

Oracle Corp. failed to unearth CEO Larry Ellison's emails that were sought as evidence in a class-action lawsuit. According to the US District Judge Susan Illston, Oracle should have figured out a way to comply with the order to produce the information, which was issued in late 2006.(4)

5.) Email Job Elimination

Carat's chief people officer accidentally alerted staffers that their jobs could be in peril by sending an office-wide email only meant for senior management. Additionally, the specifics on the talking points of their restructuring were shared.(5)

6.) Unhealthy News Anchor Obsession

A former news anchor, smitten by his female co-anchor was charged with hacking into her email account 537 times in 146 days, often checking on her 10 times a day or more. He logged in from both home and work and passed on some of the information to a Philadelphia newspaper gossip columnist.(6)

7.) Space Encounters

NASA found a computer virus on a laptop aboard the International Space Station, which carries about 50 computers.(7) Email continues to be one of the most common distribution methods for new viruses and other malware, underscoring the need for organizations to deploy anti-virus technology at the email gateway, email server and end-user desktop levels.

8.) Qualcomm's Email Cemetery

Qualcomm got smacked with an $8.5 million penalty because it bungled its own discovery of email relevant to a patent lawsuit with Broadcom. As more courts require thorough discovery searches, mistakes like these will come to the forefront.(8)

9.) Batting Back Backscatter

Stephen Gielda, president of Paketderm, found his servers were being inundated with a tidal wave of backscatter messages. At one point, he was being hit by 10,000 bounce back messages per second.(9)

10.) Angel-O-Lantern

Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo hit reply rather than forward when typing 'disgusting' in response to a customer's email. The media and the investor community noticed Mozilo's response. In fact, one investor on a Web site wrote, "I hope that company gets what they deserve."(10)

"Given all of the potential risks and costs associated with email, it's no surprise that nearly 15 percent of IT executives that Proofpoint recently surveyed said they would eliminate email in their organizations if that were feasible," said Sandra Vaughan, senior vice president of marketing and products for Proofpoint. "But email has evolved from a business and personal communication tool to the most mission-critical application for most organizations. From courts of law to the race for the presidency, email security is being taken very seriously. And while email can cause mayhem, there are solutions available that help organizations reduce the substantial risks posed by both inbound and outbound email."

About Proofpoint, Inc.

Proofpoint secures and improves enterprise email infrastructure with solutions for email security, archiving, encryption and data loss prevention. Proofpoint solutions defend against spam and viruses, prevent leaks of confidential and private information, encrypt sensitive emails and archive messages for retention, e-discovery and easier mailbox management. Proofpoint solutions can be deployed on-premises (appliance), on-demand (SaaS) or in a hybrid architecture for maximum flexibility and scalability. For more information, please visit

Proofpoint is a registered trademarks of Proofpoint, Inc. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.


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