Future of Email at Risk as Firms Fear Rise in Security Threats

London, Munich, Brussels. 14 July 2004. Email’s future as a prime business application is uncertain as firms become increasingly concerned about security. Sixty per cent of firms think that email usage will more than double in the next ten years, but the same amount (59%) say they will give it up if a viable alternative emerges and the threat posed by viruses, spam and other unwanted content is not contained. Forty one per cent say they feel “worried” by the current email security threat to their business, with only 29% feeling “optimistic”.

The results are from the findings of the 2004 Email Security Survey carried out by MessageLabs, the leading provider of managed email security services to businesses worldwide.

The concern over email’s future was mirrored this week by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union in Geneva. The growth of malicious email content could see “millions of people abandoning the net entirely, out of frustration and disgust”, according to their report, which called for international cooperation from both Governments and IT businesses in fighting back against the scourge of spam.

The MessageLabs survey shows that few (15%) think email will remain the same application over the next decade. Two thirds (63%) think it will merge with other messaging applications, such as Wireless and Instant Messaging, while 14% think it will be completely redesigned.

MessageLabs also asked firms to rank current security threats in terms of their likely future effect. Twenty two per cent said that online fraud such as phishing and identity theft will be the greatest threat, and viruses achieved a similar rating (21%).

The leakage of confidential or sensitive information is rated by 18% as the main issue, with 15% stating that it will be the potential for industrial espionage.

While only 5% see unsolicited email as being the major future issue, the survey reveals continued concern over levels of spam. Forty three per cent say that spam levels will more than double over the next ten years, with a further 24% stating it will rise by more than 50%. Only 4% think it will be non-existent.

Mark Sunner, Chief Technology Officer at MessageLabs, said:

“These results clearly show that concern about email security continues to run high, to the extent that if the situation does not improve the status of email will be under threat. The convergence of the various email attack methods has led to a more damaging and complex breed of email security threat, meaning that everyone’s favourite “killer app’ is also capable of mortal damage to the business. Almost without exception every virus we have seen during 2004 has compromised infected machines, allowing them to be remotely commanded to commit other email security breaches.”

“The level of the threat has moved on, and yet in many cases the effectiveness of the protection available has not. First generation, software-based solutions have failed to evolve according to the nature of the threat. If this situation continues unchecked, email could be too big a risk for many organisations to take.”

* The Email Security Survey was carried out on the MessageLabs’ website between 28th May and 28th June 2004. A total of 125 companies from across Europe responded. A copy of the full survey results is available on request from hbl media.

About MessageLabs
MessageLabs is the leading provider of managed email security services to businesses worldwide. The company currently protects more than 8,500 businesses around the world from email threats such as viruses, spam and other unwanted content before they reach their networks and without the need for additional hardware or software. Powered by a global network of 14 data centres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Hong Kong, MessageLabs scans tens of millions of business emails each day on behalf of customers such as The British Government, The Bank of New York, Bertelsmann, Bic, CSC, Conde Nast Publications, EMI Music, Diageo, Orange, Random House, SC Johnson and StorageTek. The company also has more than 300 channel partners, including IBM, MCI, Computer Sciences Corporation, BT and Unisys. For more information on MessageLabs and its industry-leading email security and management services, please visit www.messagelabs.com.

Don't miss