IT managers are requesting simpler applications that can deal with a range of threats at a lower cost, said the top executive of security vendor Sophos.
"At the end of the day, the IT administrator does not care if it is spam or a virus," said Steve Munford, chief executive officer. "All they care is there is bad stuff coming off the Internet... and they want one vendor to protect them."
Gateway e-mail filtering is evolving. IT managers have been using a product to set e-mail policy, a product for spam and a product for viruses. All of those different components have to be managed, Munford said.
The feedback from administrators now is that they only want to deal with one vendor with a product that can handle several of those tasks, Munford said.
Sophos says it is meeting that request, and later this will month ship an e-mail filtering appliance that can set mail policies and scan inbound and outbound e-mail messages for viruses, spam and "phishing" e-mails - ones that attempt to dupe users into divulging sensitive information. Several Sophos customers are already using a beta version of the ES4000 E-mail Security Appliance, Munford said.
The product, a thin box that can be rack mounted, will be priced on a per-user basis with an annual subscription that includes software updates, he said. The product is targeted at organisations with 500 to 25,000 users, he said.
Munford said the ES4000 has a feature called "proactive heartbeat monitoring," which watches the device's performance. "We can alert the IT administrator that their appliance is not running properly," he said.
Sophos is working on several products expected to be released over the next six months, Munford said. One yet-unnamed product will help block applications from being downloaded from the Internet onto a user's computer, blocking the second major attack vector aside from e-mail, Munford said.
Recent statistics shows that despite increased awareness of malware, viruses and spam remain a top of concern of IT managers. The number of malware programs has increased 50 percent since 2000, Munford said.
Sophos has seen fewer viruses but more Trojan horse-style malware. Those programs do not necessarily have a visible harmful effect on computers. However, that code may be engineered to collect sensitive data and transmit it back to criminals, he said.
"The effect on the business can be much, much greater than a virus," Munford said.