The fake emails from e-mobsters pretending to be good ole folks at EBay, Citibank or PayPal, give us a good reason to remain vigilant in our broadband enabled lives. And are training us for a more virulent strain of phishing is coming down the pike, where the nefarious characters pretend to be our corporate sysadmins and ask us to change our enterprise passwords.
The problem is that most of us wouldn’t know any better, because we are accustomed to getting these emails every so often, either to change our Exchange passwords or something else. This is variation of phishing, called corporate phishing is going to be a major nightmare over next 12-to-18 months, says to Anne Bonaparte, chief executive officer of Mail Frontier, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based software company that makes spam and phishing protection tools for consumers and corporate customers alike.
It has about 1300 major corporate customers, mostly mid-sized companies like Callaway Golf. It has recently started an appliance, which now accounts for 40% of companies’ revenues and will be 50% of sales by next quarter. Unlike many other sectors of security, spam and phishing protection business hasn’t gone through a major consolidation, barring the acquisition of Brightmail by Symantec last year. (Bonaparte predicts it’s coming, sooner than you think!)
I met with Ms. Bonaparte for coffee recently, and queried her about many different topics including the problems of security in our networks. I wondered if the whole infrastructure has some fundamental flaw, given that the Internet was developed on the assumption of trusted relationships between the government and the educational institutions?
She agreed, though was quick to point out that the trust and fixing the problems will be more evolutionary versus a more radical rethink of the architecture. We did come to a consensus that email, given our overt reliance on it as a means of communication, is in dire need to reinvention, and a radical rethink. My personal tribulations with Apple’s Mail.app are a daily struggle. Windows users are often complaining about Outlook while Thunderbird is not quite the complete client as yet.
Those contemplations aside, we have some near term problems, and most if not all corporations are vulnerable? Ms. Bonaparte, a feisty veteran of Silicon Valley, believes that outsourced service providers like SalesForce.com and ADP could succumb to fake emails. In a sense phishers could pretend to be sending mails from these companies. One click, and the e-mobsters could have access to a lot of corporate data. “We are no longer dealing with your weekend phisher,” she says, “and instead it is more organized crime.”