McAfee Unleashes SpamKiller For Small Businesses

In January, Network Associates acquired Deersoft, an application provider known for its SpamAssassin software. Network Associates made it clear at the time of the deal that the SpamAssassin brand name would live on, but that the technology would be put to work safeguarding Microsoft Exchange 2000 servers for small businesses. The first product of this union came to market this week in the form of McAfee SpamKiller for Exchange Small Business.

According to Ferris Research, spam will cost U.S. businesses over $10 billion in 2003. As this figure is set to continue to increase with the volume of spam, small businesses need to deploy an effective anti-spam solution sooner, not later. The McAfee SpamKiller release addresses this business-critical problem with a multi-tiered defense for the e-mail server and Internet gateway.

McAfee SpamKiller scans each incoming e-mail as it reaches the server using a pre-defined set of more than 650 rules to detect and quarantine spam. As a result, employees no longer have to waste time determining what is valid e-mail and what is unsolicited junk e-mail.

McAfee SpamKiller technology uses a scoring system to determine whether a particular e-mail is or is not spam. With the extensive set of rules operating behind SpamKiller, each e-mail receives a positive or negative score to determine its overall spam rating. Once spam is detected, messages are either delivered to the end-user’s inbox, personal junk mail folder or a system-wide junk folder on the server.

Zoe Lowther, McAfee group product marketing manager, explained how the scoring system works.

“The rule-based system is set up with a default score of five,” Lowther said.” Anything below five is sent to the end user, anything above five is tagged as spam.”

Lowther added that McAfee SpamKiller is a tiered system that allows administrators to route suspect e-mails to different destinations depending on how each packet is scored.

“Administrators can set up tiered routing so that e-mails scoring 0-2 are tagged as spam, but sent to the user’s inbox anyway,” Lowther said. “Messages scoring 3-5 are more likely to be spam but can still be sent to a user’s junk mail folder. Messages scoring more than five can be sent directly to a quarantine folder on the server and never sent to end users at all.”

The scoring system is elaborate, set up to define multiple levels of spam detection and protection. By utilizing different methods of detection, McAfee SpamKiller gives small businesses five different ways to fight spam.

The first method is a form of integrity analysis — SpamKiller examines the header, layout and organization of every incoming e-mail message and applies thousands of algorithms to determine if the e-mail is spam. One common variance SpamKiller finds is the difference between the send and receive dates — often indicating that the e-mail is unsolicited.

The second and third methods are a combination of content filtering and heuristic detection capabilities. With a set of automated rules based on known spam characteristics, SpamKiller works proactively to secure small business networks against delivering spam. Administrators can add to the pre-defined sets of words and phrases to help further identify unwanted e-mail and inappropriate content.

Lowther said that SpamKiller’s heuristic detection capabilities detect known anti-spam workaround tactics. For example, many anti-spam products will detect the word “Viagra” and filter the content accordingly. But heuristic detection systems will also recognize variations of banned topics, such as “V.I.A.G.R.A.” or “v*i*a*g*r*a*”.

In the past, the tradeoff for using such spam thwarting technologies usually meant that employees lost control over their inboxes. Not so with McAfee SpamKiller — there are two ways that individual users can determine what e-mails are unsolicited and what are pertinent business communications.

Through the use of global and local black and white lists, administrators can establish universally acceptable and unacceptable e-mail senders. Individual users can also supplement these lists. This means that desired newsletter content can keep being delivered to one user, while it’s sent to a junk mail folder of another. Both types of personalized lists are automatically synchronized with Outlook so any changes made by end users are immediate.

As a result, SpamKiller is self-tuning — it allows end-users to define and personalize their anti-spam settings at the desktop — giving both employers and employees a comprehensive set of anti-spam tools.

SpamKiller for Exchange Small Business can manage up to 500 e-mail addresses. Pricing is set on a per user basis. Pricing for 50 to 100 nodes is $23.43 per node. This is a 2-year subscription that includes support for first year. The price for 101 to 250 nodes is $20.38 per user.

McAfee SpamKiller for Exchange Small Business is available for U.S. orders this week from the McAfee Security division of Network Associates. European and Asia-Pacific regions will begin selling the software on April 22, 2003.

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