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Rexam, the global packaging group, has seen e-mail evolve from an esoteric technology used by a few to a mainstream business application that its employees cannot afford to do without.
“If our e-mail is not up and running all the time, we quickly know about it,” says Antonio Traetto, global messaging manager for Rexam, the world’s largest producer of drinks cans.
The company operates in more than 20 countries and 10,000 of its 22,000-strong workforce are e-mail users. Keeping the e-mail systems running smoothly has grown to become a major task with 150 mail servers scattered around the globe and a 24-hour support centre dedicated just to e-mail.
The systems handle more than 8m e-mails each week and the figure is almost doubling each year – a soaring level of traffic that obliges the company to keep buying new hardware and software. It also creates big security headaches because, inevitably, a large proportion of the inbound e-mail contains viruses, spam and other electronic pests.
Mr Traetto, who has been with the company five years, says that in the past the security issue was not so serious because e-mail was primarily used for non-urgent internal communications, such as sending memos or circulars.
Today, it is increasingly used for business-critical communications and many of Rexam’s customers now use e-mail to send in orders. Hackers are well aware of this which is why Rexam’s e-mail servers are frequently attacked.
“If we took the security systems away we would have to say goodbye to our network,” says Mr Traetto.
With attacks becoming more sophisticated and potentially disruptive, Rexam recently overhauled its e-mail security and standardised on software from Trend Micro, a leader in server-based anti-virus solutions.
Rexam has opted for a belt-and-braces approach in which Trend Micro’s server-based products provide the first line of defence against external threats.
The company’s desktop PCs have their own scanning software to provide a second line of defence and, in particular, to detect threats that enter the network from the inside – by employees plugging in infected laptops, for example.
“There are always new security vulnerabilities that people are trying to break but if we are ever hit by a virus we have the tools to clean up, with significantly reduced or no down-time,” says Mr Traetto.
With the virus problem largely under control, his battle has now shifted to stemming the growing tide of spam entering Rexam. “We cannot block everything, even if we set the spam filter to medium-high,” says Mr Traetto.
An added problem for the multinational company is that much of its e-mail traffic is written in languages other than English. The company has to fine-tune its spam filters so that they don’t block words that are offensive in English but legitimate in Swedish, for example.
Rexam has created its own blacklists of known spammers’ IP addresses as well as “white lists” of legitimate senders’ addresses in a bid to reduce the number of legitimate e-mails that the software mistakenly flags as spam.
The latest hacker ploy to tax Mr Traetto is a string of e-mails sent to Rexam employees that apparently come from inside the company – the “From:” field shows the sender’s domain as “rexam.com”. “It looks like a legitimate internal e-mail and so people will open it but I suspect that it could be an internal virus and I have no idea how it got in,” says Mr Traetto.