Speaking here on Thursday at the INBOX conference, the executives from e-mail service providers and software makers said that the fight against spam, phishing attacks and viruses has just begun.
"We have two years of pretty nasty innovation coming from wrong side," said Dave Anderson, president and CEO of Sendmail Inc. "That may be good from a business perspective for us, but its bad from the perspective of our customers."
In particular, more organized crime is getting involved in attacks, and the attackers are becoming more dogged by blending together multiple types of threats, said Tom Gillis, senior vice president for worldwide marketing at IronPort Systems Inc.
"In e-mail space the threats are very, very real and are driven by economics," Gillis said. "People are making money by exploiting holes in the email infrastructure. In order for us to stop the threats out there, we need to fundamentally change the way the e-mail infrastructure works."
Gillis, in particular, noted the need for e-mail authentication so that users could verify the senders of e-mails and help cut down on phishing and other fraudulent activity.
While threats may still be real, the market for e-mail security also has turned from a sellers market to more of a buyers market as the first wave of customers have already installed technology such as anti-spam software, said Peter Christy, a principal at market researcher Internet Research Group.
The e-mail security and management market also appears headed toward more consolidation as bigger vendors such as Symantec Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have more aggressively pursued the market and as areas such as anti-virus protection and spam-fight have become more common, panelist said.
"Weve got blended threats, and were coming up with blended solutions," Anderson said. "Well see consolidation in business not just around a few successful companies but a suite of solutions so that it will stop being a point solution business."
The upside for enterprise IT could be an increasing drive among vendors to offer more simplified, bundled offerings, something customers are demanding, said Anne Bonaparte, president and CEO of MailFrontier Inc.
"The game is changing dramatically for us over the next couple years," she said. "Customers want to set it and forget it and put in a system that manages itself."
Security and consolidation are the most immediate trends in e-mail, but the industry also increasingly must deal with customer demands for tracking compliance and the proliferation of e-mail on mobile devices, panelists said.
As e-mail and other messaging technologies such as instant messaging are accessed more regularly on mobile devices, security threats will follow as well, Anderson said.
"Now we see all these devices connected together, in a seamless, wireless world, and where messaging assets can be gotten to from many directions," he said. "Anytime you take an environment and make more connections in the environment, what you get is a plague."