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Maximizing Email Security ROI: Part II – Stop Viruses Before They Stop You

Written By: CipherTrust

This is the second of a five-part series on Maximizing Email Security ROI.

Across the spectrum of information security risks, most casual users understand the dangers posed by viruses and worms. Network administrators have even more reason to fear a virus attack, as a successful assault can cripple corporate networks for days. The lasting damage, however, is much more difficult to determine with precision, as the residual financial impact of a virus infection extends long after the actual attack is over. Lost employee productivity, consumption of IT and Help Desk resources and the potential for lost data can all exponentially increase the hard costs of a virus attack on an enterprise.

The recent proliferation of new Zero-Day virus attacks such as the May 2004 Sasser worm, which raced across the world in minutes and caused $3.5 billion in damages, has once again brought virus protection to the forefront of the collective consciences of network administrators and CIOs. Quantifying the risks posed by viruses and worms to CEOs and CFOs to justify expenditures on network security, however, can be a real challenge. This week, the second installment in The IronMail Insiders five-part series on maximizing email security ROI will shed some light on how to accurately calculate the potential for loss due to virus attack, and more importantly, how to explain that potential to the controller of the corporate purse strings.

Lost Employee Productivity

Now that email is the undisputable primary communication method for most organizations, the loss of email due to attack can severely affect enterprise operations. Beyond the immediate financial expenses involved in restoring the network, an attack on your enterprise email system also directly results in countless lost work hours for employees for as long as the network remains inoperable. In addition, time spent by end users contacting help desk resources, waiting for infected workstations and servers to be cleaned, and installing patches and updates will negatively impact the companys bottom line until the last workstation has been cleaned and the last user has returned to productivity.
Consumption of IT and Help Desk Resources

Bandwidth consumed by the spread of a virus or worm slows network speed to a crawl or shuts the entire network down at once, and infected workstations frequently lock up due to the processing power consumed by the virus. After the attack, Help Desk employees spend days and weeks cleaning individual workstations, repairing servers and applying patches in the hopes that another attack can be avoided, when they should be available to end-users to solve more mundane issues.

Attacks that take down entire networks cause exponentially higher levels of lost productivity than those that take down only individual workstations. According to The Computer Virus Prevalence Survey, in 2003 almost a third of businesses worldwide had suffered a virus “disaster,” defined as 25 or more computers infected by a single virus in the same incident, costing an average of almost $100,000 to clean up each time. More than three quarters suffered outages that caused a loss of productivity, and two thirds indicated that a major effect of an attack was to make a PC inaccessible.

Lost Data

Employees are storing more and more confidential, mission-critical information on personal workstations and internal networks every day. Financial and employee records, trade secrets and internal emails are all at risk should a malicious virus choose to corrupt or destroy them.

Should any or all of this information be attacked by a virus or worm, documents stored on user machines and email servers risk destruction or corruption, rendering days or weeks worth of work useless. While some of the work may be recoverable, help desk resource utilization and third-party forensic experts will add to the total cost of the attack.
Reputation and Credibility Erosion

Falling victim to a virus attack will likely result in lost confidence from business partners and customers and affect your enterprises perceived trustworthiness in the marketplace. According to Gartner, Enterprises that spread viruses, worms, spam and denial-of-service attacks will find not only that malicious software can hinder their profitability, but also that other businesses will disconnect from them if they are considered to be risky. While an attack may not be your fault, it is most certainly your problem.

Stay a Step Ahead of the Enemy

Fully understanding the risks posed by viruses and worms is only the beginning of your battle against them. To learn how to confront the numerous dangers to your enterprise network, read CipherTrusts FREE whitepaper, Next-Generation Virus Defense: An Overview of IronMail Zero-Day Virus Protection.

Part III of this series will consider the issues involved in determining ROI for email policy enforcement as it relates to regulatory compliance, asset/IP protection, liability and reputation.

About the Author

CipherTrust is the leader in anti-spam and email security. Learn more by downloading our free whitepaper, Next-Generation Virus Defense: An Overview of IronMail Zero-Day Virus Protection or by visiting www.ciphertrust.com.

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