We’ve all gotten the unwanted emails before — “Visit our casino!” “Increase your size!” “Buy prescriptions for less!” These types of emails are incredibly annoying, but not only that, they can also be incredibly dangerous, especially if they’re hitting a business mail server. Unwanted, advertorial email is called spam, and most junk mail filters are set to catch a lot of it. However, spammers are getting smarter, and they’re finding ways to get around standard protection in Microsoft Exchange hosted servers.
The good thing is, most Exchange providers give you protection with your service; the question is, however, how well does it work? To understand the difference in levels of spam protection, you’ve first got to understand the way spam works. People who work for companies that produce spam attack computers using keywords, emailing lists, both solicited and unsolicited (from mailing lists and newsgroups), and search engines. For businesses, any “Contact Us” email addresses are subject to spammers.
As well, a new practice called “phishing” is making the online rounds, and can be a huge source for spammers. Luckily, BlackBerry Exchange hosting providers realize this and they provide protection with their plans. However, what are you really getting with spam protection? How do you set it up so that important emails aren’t being diverted into the junk filter?
What are the best anti-spam companies, and who uses them? When you sign up for an Exchange account with most companies, they’ll tell you that you’ve got basic anti-spam protection included with your plan. What this means is that the filter will catch most of the obvious junk mail, but may let innocent-looking messages through. Because Microsoft Exchange provides spam protection as well, this is often enough for most companies.
However, for those businesses who want to filter their messages in a more thorough fashion, you can play with the settings with basic spam protection, either only through Microsoft Exchange or through both Exchange and the company itself. You should be able to block messages by keyword, full email address and email company. However, there are pros and cons to this.
Some settings may include adjusting the keywords to catch words like “Viagra” or “Cialis”; but be warned, this may mean that any email containing your targeted keywords will bounce into your junk mail filter. When you have an email with the word “specialist” in it and you have “Cialis” marked as junk, that important message may never reach your inbox.
You can also choose to block addresses or address endings, like “Viagra.com”, but beware that if you block a spammer with a well-known email provider, you won’t get any messages from contacts at “yahoo.com” either. Also, spammers are getting smarter — they may send you emails with the subject word spelled with numbers or having two letters inverted. These can and will get past your filter. If that level of protection isn’t enough for your users, you can choose, with many Exchange providers, to purchase a security package that includes either their own brand of spam protection or a third-party provider that must be installed onto your servers.
The good thing is, your email is much more protected and supported; the bad thing is, it costs more money and some Exchange plans are expensive enough to begin with. Luckily, the cost is normally not high — our research has shown that most security packs have a monthly fee of under $2. The best thing do when you see these security packages being offered is to email the provider about what’s included. Mostly, you’re going to get anti-virus protection, anti-spam protection, and sometimes extra firewall protection.
You’re also going to get a lot more control over your email settings, like you would with any third-party spam blocker. You should be looking for good email protocol, including white lists (people that you allow to send email to your company), header checking (the ability to examine Internet headers in Outlook and determining characteristics common to spam mail), algorithms that determine spam email (they analyze ingoing and outgoing email for common spammer characteristics, and then filter them out), and phishing filtering, to name a few. So, what kind of provider is your Exchange hosting company going with? The best way to find out is to ask.
If the service is their own security software, ask them for a demo or for a trial period to try it out. Most will provide a trial period with their Exchange plans, anyway. Also check the site for any testimonials to tell you how well the product works. If the company is going through a third-party provider, find out which one they’re going with and then do some research on it. Great Exchange spam protectors include:
1. Postini (http://www.postini.com) — a provider of anti-spam and anti-virus protection, this company is highly rated by many Exchange companies. It’s a constant solution that’s completely hosted, and doesn’t need software updating or maintaining.
2. GFI Mail Essentials (http://www.gfi.com) — this solution provides excellent spam protection, including image, .zip and .pdf spam. You also get 98% protection with Bayesian filters, which are algorithms set up to catch the majority of spam email.
3. McAfee Spam Killer for Mail Servers (http://mcafeesecurity.com) — a well-known name in the industry, McAfee’s spam solution provides rules-based scanning, black and white lists, content filtering, a spam scoring system, and more.
4. SurfControl Email Filter (http://www.surfcontrol.com) — this system allows you to manage your spam and junk mail while protecting your companies information. It also includes virus scanning, protection against phishing attacks, and more. It works as a plug-in to Microsoft Exchange.
5. Cloudmark Exchange Edition (http://www.cloudmark.com/) — a highly-rated company in the industry. Cloudmark offers blockage of 98% of spam through filtering and false criticals. They also give automatic updates so that your service is not interrupted. Whatever you choose, spam protection is not something to ignore.
Your email and data is important — the last thing you need is a system crash initiated by a spammer with nothing better to do. Make sure you’re protected by doing your research on spam.