A staggering 94 percent of companies admit that they are powerless to prevent confidential data from leaving their company by email, according to a new study from Mimecast.

The survey was carried out by Emedia on behalf of the email management provider, and interviewed 125 IT managers in the United Kingdom.

It found that only 6 percent of respondents were confident that anyone attempting to send confidential information by email out of the organisation, would be prevented from doing so.

The study also showed that 32 percent of companies would not even be aware that confidential information had been leaked, and therefore would be unable to take steps to minimise the damage or track down the source of the information.

However 62 percent said they would be able to retrospectively identify the email leak once the information had been sent, but they did confess to being unable to prevent its disclosure.

"The figures show that organisations haven’t nailed down the email channel," said Tim Pickard, marketing director at Mimecast. "Email protection is catching on as a technology that manages information, as the industry moves away from protect-and-defence, to becoming more aware how information flows around the organisation."

And it seems the analyst community agrees. "These figures do not surprise me - on the whole employees are not sending stuff out maliciously, but through carelessness or lack of forethought," said Bob Tarzey, security analyst at Quocirca.

"Education can help to some extent, but many employees are using communications tools all day, every day and mistakes will happen, so having checks in place makes sense. Affordability of available technology to tackle the problem is also a problem, as most businesses are unable to invest in the high end, on-premise Data Leak Prevention (DLP) products that large business can."

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