Microsoft strengthens antivirus in Exchange 03

New technology built into Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange Server 2003 e-mail server will be the foundation of better and more effective antispam and antivirus products in the months to come, the company said in a statement last month.

The new tools, which will ship with Exchange Server 2003, are intended to be used by partners of the Redmond, Wash. company that make antivirus and antispam products which are compatible with Microsoft’s popular messaging platform.

On the antispam front, Microsoft is providing its partners with a tool that will scan incoming e-mail messages and attach a confidence level to each message indicating the probability of the message being spam, Microsoft said in an announcement.

Exchange administrators will be able to set a spam confidence threshold, which will determine whether the message is forwarded to a user mailbox or to a junk folder, according to Edward Wu, technical product manager of Exchange marketing at Microsoft.

For antivirus, Microsoft is releasing an updated version of its antivirus API (application programming interface), VSAPI, with Exchange Server 2003. VSAPI version 2.5 is the first update to the API since the release of VSAPI 2.0 with Exchange Server 2000 and will significantly increase the capabilities of Exchange Server to interact with third party antivirus products, Wu said.

Whereas previous versions of the API focused on providing antivirus scanning on user mailboxes, VSAPI 2.5 will allow Microsoft and its partners to push scanning out to the network edge, reducing the impact of viruses and virus-tainted e-mail on network infrastructures, Wu said.

VSAPI 2.5 will also make it possible to prevent infected e-mail from leaving an organization by scanning outgoing mail, in addition to inbound mail, Microsoft said.

While the changes to Exchange Server 2003 will largely be invisible to most e-mail users, other changes to Exchange Server 2003 will put new antispam and antivirus tools into the hands of users, Wu said.

Exchange Server 2003 will include new junk mail filters that enable users to block HTML content by default, create “safe” and “block” lists for e-mail messages and profile spam by weighting messages based on keywords or message patterns, Microsoft said.

In addition, users will be able to upload “safe” and “block” lists from their client to the Exchange Server, saving mobile and remote users the time of having to download messages that should be blocked, he said.

The new features are a response to feedback from Microsoft’s development partners, who asked for features and hooks that would enable them to make their own products work better with Exchange Server, according to Wu.

Microsoft anticipates more features in the future to strengthen antispam and antivirus features, according to Wu. Don’t look for Microsoft to build antivirus and antispam features directly into the Exchange platform anytime soon, though.

“We’re good at big infrastructure pieces. Microsoft knows that spam and antivirus are a big deal. We know as a company that we have to make better solutions, and we’re going to work with our partners,” Wu said.

– IDG News Service