A new weapon designed to block spam and filter e-mail content for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was unveiled earlier this month by Ottawa-based Nemx Software Inc.
Built to work with Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange 5.5 and 2000 editions, the SecurExchange – SBS (small business servers) edition combines the functionality of two existing Nemx products: the SecurExchange anti-virus tool and Power Tools v3.3 Internet Edition. Nemx also released new versions, v3.3 of their Power Tools products – both the Internet and Advanced Editions.
“What we’ve developed is technology that works right on the Exchange server, so there’s no reconfiguration, there’s no additional cost, and performance isn’t compromised because as the message comes into Exchange we get it in its raw form,” said John Young, president of Nemx. He said some companies run their e-mail through a proxy server that separates the spam from legitimate messages; with Nemx’s products that isn’t necessary.
The Advanced Edition differs from the Internal Edition in that it can scan internal mail, whereas the Internet Edition and the SecurExchange-SBS Edition cannot.
However, all three scan e-mail at the address, content and header levels to minimize spam coming into users’ inboxes. SecurExchange-SBS Edition has an anti-virus component, but an anti-virus engine from Norman Data Defense can purchased for the Power Tools products as an add-on. The enhancement is called Concept Scanning.
“Concept Scanning goes to the next step [in content scanning], trying to understand what the concept of the message is about,” Young said. “For instance, the message is trying to sell you something and it’s about a prescription drug and there is a Web site and phone number to contact for additional information. Based on these concepts being found within the message, then it’s considered junk mail and some action can be invoked on that message.”
The content manager allows the IT administrator to define rules to monitor the body text component of outgoing and incoming e-mail for violations in corporate policy, security policy and privacy laws.
If the content manager is triggered, the message can be deleted, placed in a folder or forwarded to an administrator for scrutiny.
If users running Exchange 2000 select the delete option, spam can be deleted in the first couple of bytes of information transfer. Young said that by deleting messages early on in the transfer, the user could prevent bottlenecks by saving bandwidth.
The spam blocker uses header recognition and Reverse-BlackList (RBL) database look-up. RBLs contain the IP address of hosts or known hosts or spammers who are sending mail. As a result, Power Tools and SecurExchange can block these IP addresses.
“We find with the databases out there you can on average block 80 to 90 per cent of junk coming in,” he said.
Henry Renz, corporate network security analyst at the Corporate Information Technology Directorate at Western Economic Diversification in Edmonton, is a two-month-long user of Power Tools Internet Edition. He said that he does not use the RBL database option to scan for spam because it does not allow him to include users at an opt-in level.
Of the 400 users at Western Economic Diversification only about 20 have opted in so far to the spam blocking service; using the RBL database would require all users to get their mail scanned for spam. He added there is a “huge” discrepancy between RBL databases, some of which are overzealous in their spam tagging, and others which are not zealous enough.
Renz said Power Tools Internet Edition is cost-effective, was easy to implement (it is downloaded from Nemx’s Web site), performs as advertised, and takes about a five per cent hit on the server.
However, he said that the documentation of the product was not very good, and that the software had several bugs, but Nemx quickly provided patches. He said that when amending rules he liked to import the documents into Excel to change them, and said it didn’t export back into Power Tools properly – there were a few misplaced commas.
Overall, however, Renz said he is satisfied with the product, and likes it because it fits seamlessly into the Exchange server.
The address manager allows e-mail to be filtered at the address level; entire domains can be blocked, or entire domains can be let through. In addition, it can be configured to reroute mail to the right person, or to the right people.
Brian Burke, an industry analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said that “…they focus primarily on the Microsoft Exchange environment, which is good.…Our projections show that as far as messaging applications go, [the Microsoft Exchange market] is going to grow the fastest over the next five years.”
Alister Sutherland, director of software research at Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., agreed. He said that the vast majority of the world uses Microsoft Exchange, and both he and Burke said that most anti-spam and content-filtering solutions have been focused on large enterprises.
“Our survey data shows that most implementations so far have been at the enterprise level,” said Burke. “So there’s definitely a market for the mid-sized companies and that’s where these guys [Nemx] are focusing.”
Pricing for SecurExchange – SBS Edition and Power Tools varies per user and per version of Microsoft Exchange. Nemx is at (613) 831-2010 or www.nemx.com.