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Federal e-mail mandate stalls

Federal e-mail mandate stalls

Only five agencies across the whole of government have taken steps to comply with a new e-mail mandate which was announced last September.

Developed by the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), the mandate requires every federal government department to implement protective markings for inter-agency e-mail correspondence by March 2007.

But take-up has stalled with only a handful of agencies introducing the new standard in the past six months.

Known as ACSI 33, the standard was issued by the Attorney General's department under the Protective Security Manual (PSM).

It requires all federal government departments and agencies to implement e-mail filtering at the mail gateway to ensure no correspondence marked confidential or highly sensitive is read by government employees without an appropriate security clearance.

To date only the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Cente (Austrac), the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and AusAID have complied.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said work has already begun at the department to comply with the new measures and the deadline will be met.

The spokesperson said agencies have been given two years to comply "allowing it to be built into agency workplans".

Once government agencies all comply with the new "protective markings" mandate there is the potential for commercial partners and the private sector to adopt similar standards of compliance.

Trevor Laughton, Clearswift enterprise relationship manager, said the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) believes these guidelines are unique in the world and that Australia is leading the charge.

"These regulations have been introduced to create a standard and from a vendor point of view we have to show customers the business benefits of compliance - not just the stick that is being waved by the federal government," Laughton said, adding that plans are afoot to extend the standard to state governments.

He said this will provide consistency across all levels of government.

Ed Sawkins, senior systems engineer for Clearswift, presented a seminar to government agencies on the ASC133 regulations last week in Canberra. Sawkins said compliance had so far been slow, but most agencies in Australia are aware of the mandate.

He said the move is part of a broader trend toward classifying e-mails and taking steps to protect intellectual property.

"The whole purpose of ACS133 is to prevent information from leaving an organization; the hardest part is turning regulations into a set of business rules," Sawkins said.

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