Google Postini Gains E-mail Content Compliance Tools

Postini, a wholly owned subsidiary of Google purchased earlier this year, continues to enhance its e-mail security service with an eye toward business users.

New content policy features announced today add several content policy management features for administrators such as the ability to identity credit card and social security numbers in outgoing e-mail and attachments.

Administrators have a range of options in how the information is handled. For example, companies could set up a “bounce back” so that any e-mails that include social security or credit card numbers are automatically returned to the sender with a notice of company policy prohibiting their transmission. Or such e-mails, as well as other content based on pre-defined rules, could simply be blocked or sent to administrators for approval.

“Companies may want to quarantine certain information or simply send a Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) e-mail to an administrator for an audit trail,” Adam Swidler, senior product manager at Google, told A separate service will let companies encrypt specifically flagged types of e-mail content.

One example, preventing health records from being transmitted without encryption so only authorized recipients would be able to decrypt and view them.

Swidler said Google typically advises new customers to use the service’s basic monitor mode to see what content triggers alerts and if the content parameters need to be tuned. “Some companies have no idea what’s being transmitted by their employees via e-mail, so this gives them the ability to see that for the first time.”

On the security front, Postini is also adding new “zero hour” detection capabilities that lets companies automatically quarantine suspicious content and re-inspect with updated virus signatures, providing an added security layer of advanced virus protection.

New anti-spam capabilities have also been added to detect and block newer, more sophisticated botnet-based attacks immediately.

The new e-mail compliance capabilities will roll out free over the next several days to users of Google Apps Premier Edition, a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering that costs $50 per user annually, as well as a standalone Postini service for others.

Several companies offer hardware appliances and other tools to monitor Microsoft Outlook and other enterprise communications, but Swidler pointed to Postini’s easy installation and zero maintenance as a differentiator. He said Google was in the process of “retiring” the Microsoft Exchange platform it uses internally in favor of Postini and Google Apps.

Google is building a framework that Swidler said will eventually let it extend Postini’s compliance and security service to all sorts of outbound communications including blogs, wikis and instant messages.

There’s no timeframe for this broader release, but Swidler noted Google’s ability to quickly integrate Postini with its Apps Premier since it officially joined Google in September and the additional content management capabilities announced today.

“We’ve accelerated our release cycle and I would expect that to continue in 2008,” he said.

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