Newsletter 01-04

Newsletter 01-04




January 2004  


bullet Editor's Corner
bullet Worth Considering
bullet In The News
bullet Feature Article


This month's feature article is:

"Spam Legal Issues"

Beware of letting spam in the door. You just might be opening a can of something else...


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Editor's Corner

Hi everyone!

Another year and same old same old network security problems. Deja vu doesn't even begin to describe the feeling of haven't we been all through this over and over...

As attacks on network security grow more sophisticated, the soft underbelly of some companies is rudely exposed. Witness the embarrassing network failures of Verizon, Bank of America, and First Energy.

A little more investment in network security goes a long way toward avoiding negative PR.  All of these network failures could have been avoided with a best practices audit.

Of course, I'm sure that there are meeting minutes at each company with a manager telling a VP that all their systems are secure and that there is nothing to worry about.

If there is nothing to worry about, why not welcome an outside look at just how strong your network security really is?  It sounds a whole lot less painful than finding out the hard way.

Greg Reynolds


Worth Considering

Apparently, First Energy didn't get the memo when they got hit with the Slammer virus, so they left themselves wide open for the Blaster virus.

Should we even be surprised that the Great Blackout of 2003 might be directly attributable to lax network security at First Energy?

Read Bruce Schneier's excellent analysis:

Cryptogram - December 2003

Common sense goes a long way....

In The News

Here's some interesting article links on recent spam issues:


Bank of England Hit By Hoax Email (from CNN)


Don't Expect New Law To Stop Spam (Detroit FP)


Can Spam Law Panned (from Akron Beacon Journal)


Spam Legal Issues

by Greg Reynolds

Spam can create legal complications for businesses:

• Hostile or unsafe workplace lawsuits
• Sexual harassment lawsuits

Defending against unsafe workplace lawsuits of this nature can be tremendously expensive for businesses. You must be able to document all efforts made to protect workers from offensive materials. Legal costs can quickly climb into the tens of thousands without any guarantee of a favorable decision.

Similarly, employees forwarding pornographic spam can create huge liabilities for their employers. What one person might intend as a joke can be perceived by someone on the receiving end as harassment. We’ve all heard the old saying “perception is reality” and many juries have backed that viewpoint with substantial awards.

Companies worldwide need to provide a positive work environment for their employees. For example, in the US, companies with 25 or more employees must, under federal law, provide a work environment free of gender, ethnic or racial harassment or discrimination.

That requires taking reasonable steps to eliminate harassing materials from the workplace. It may not matter whether the company knew employees were downloading pornographic images or passing racist e-mail jokes.

The test at trial could be whether well-known remedies were available to prevent abuses, whether a policy existed to apply those remedies, and whether the policy was actually enforced.

Illegal or offensive content may include:
• Pornographic images downloaded off the Web
• E-mail jokes (either sent or received)
• Pornographic or racially offensive e-mail attachments
• Rumors or gossip regarding a fellow employee
• Unauthorized release of personal employee information
• E-mail discussions that result in employee harassment or discrimination

Illegal or offensive content - both Web and e-mail - is a risk. It is much better from a legal standpoint to protect your business with strong spam filters and an ironclad Acceptable Use policy that is enforced every day.

What’s important to stress here is that having a policy is generally not enough to establish a defense to a claim of harassment. Employers must also enforce the policy and proactively take steps to prevent employees from being exposed to harassing material.

Non-enforcement implies non-commitment or, worse, disregard for accepted working conditions, while the implementation of filtering systems and perimeter protection services count as important indicators of corporate intent to enforce stated policies.

The three-pronged foundation of policy, training, and enforcement greatly reduces the potential for employment-related claims.

In the event of litigation, this foundation will strengthen the employer’s position in requesting a summary judgment or other motion to terminate litigation at any early stage – saving legal costs in hundreds of thousands of dollars and substantial damages.

Greg Reynolds is a 20-year computer industry veteran and the President of Net Sense, an IT consulting firm. 

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