Titus Labs helps stop e-mail slips

Message Classification allows data sensitivity labeling to be added to e-mails

The news media is full of stories about e-mails and documents that were better off not sent. Last year an airline CEO accidentally sent an ultra harsh e-mail to complaining customers, the text of which was obviously not intended for the customers. Frustrated employees frequently send embarrassing internal memorandum to public news sources. And is there an e-mail user who hasn't regretted accidentally sending an e-mail to an unintended party? Whether e-mail or documents are sent intentionally or not, it is clear that content intended for a restricted audience is being shared with unauthorized parties on a regular basis.

Titus Labs attempts to address this problem and assist with data classification with their Message Classification and Document Classification for Microsoft Office products. Message Classification works with Microsoft Outlook 2000 and later, and allows data sensitivity labeling to be added to e-mails (including Outlook for Web Access) and calendar events. Each participating client must install a client-side program and configure the operational settings. Configuration settings are generated by a separate administrative program called Message Classification Administration Tool, which can be installed on any Windows-based workstation or server with the Microsoft .Net Framework.

Setup with configuration templates

The Message Classification Administration Tool displays a GUI (see Figure 1) with a series of configuration subcategories, each with about ten different options. After the configuration options are selected, the tool can create two different administrative file types to assist with deployment (an Active Directory group policy administrative template or registry edit file), or simply configure the local machine it is installed on. Installation was easy and straightforward, and documentation was above average, although it lacked necessary detail in some areas.

The resulting registry edit file can be manually edited before installing, and local administrative permissions are needed on each workstation to install. The preferred method for most environments will be the group policy administrative template, which can be applied at any organizational unit or container level, so that different classification policies can apply to different users. The granularity of Message Classification enables a company to have one set of data classification labels for a particular set of users (say the Legal department), and another set of labels (and treatment) for other groups.

The resulting administrative template created by the tool contains more configuration options than were available to configure in the Administration Tool user interface, and each option must be enabled after importing into the appropriate group policy object. Outlook must be restarted after setting the configuration with any method.

Once the settings are configured, when users create an Outlook e-mail, they can add a data classification level label (see Figure 2) to the outgoing message. The default labels are Unclassified, Confidential, and Secret, but any number of labels can be added or deleted, so long as they are ranked from less restrictive to more restrictive (for other features to apply correctly). A second level of labels can be defined so that any level 1 label can be further defined (Unclassified -- Internal use only, Unclassified -- External use allowed, and so forth). Labels can be added to the e-mail subject line (before or after the regular subject text) and/or added to the message's e-mail header and message body.

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Roger A. Grimes

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