Thunderbird 2.0, Exchange Server and Email Dreamland

In the further adventures of the Ubuntu 9.04 desktop in the workplace, the crabby engineer has installed Thunderbird 2.

In the further adventures of the Ubuntu 9.04 desktop in the workplace, the crabby engineer has installed Thunderbird 2.0 and has it connecting to the corpulent (corporate, whatever!) Exchange server. I tried Evolution in the Ubuntu 9.04 distro and was deeply disappointed. I could not get it to work at all. I was looking forward to a "lookOut!" connection with the calender, company address book etc, without actually having to use "lookOut!".

Since Thunderbird is a IMAP/POP client, its going out to the intranet and then back to the Internet connection on our Exchange Server, so I run a secure connection. We have a number of employees that are located all around the world so web access is necessary. I also get to take advantage of the spam filter since the IT guys have it set to NOT distribute spam to outside remotely logged on connections. Nice. My inbox is so nice and tidy now. Even though Thunderbird is using a POP connection, Exchange lets me keep folders on the server and local folders on Ubuntu without any complaints at all.

I was a little worried about compatibility but it seems to work without any complaint except one. I get a message on every refresh or connection that the server security license is not licensed to the Exchange Server. Yes that is true but even when I set Thunderbird to accept the license as a permanent exception, it pops the warning up every time. What really is the problem is that the license does not mention or cover the web connection I am using to get to the server, just the inside connections. So this message is popping up for all of our Internet connected employees as well. When I have some time I'll figure out how to deep-six the security pop-up on this one single connection.

Oh well. Its just another click. Working with Visaster has really inured me to the potential security threats represented by the pop-ups. (Not!) So far I haven't yet gotten nailed by a spoof pop-up (knock on my head!). I try to check my email when I can stay focused on it and not be distracted so I'll not just blindly click-through. However, I'm only sure about myself, not the other company employees. A number of them are situated where they have to use public Wifi or 3G connections to get to the Internet. Hopefully we won't get trashed by something dropped onto the Exchange Server by a remotely connected employee or a wireless man-in-the-middle.

One of the future IT fantasies would be a completely secure email system such that you could trust the connection, the message and the ID of the guy sending you the email. And likewise for him as well. For employees, using a variation of VPN or some secure tunneling technique takes care of the connection security issues but doesn't necessarily lend itself to expansion beyond the corporate structure. Vendors, sales reps, FAE's etc are a lot of the people I communicate with daily and for them there is no easy answer to increase security on email.

If I had a wish, it would be for the Internet gurus out there to invent a really secure email service and protocol that could be used for managed connections. Something besides set email filters to prevent unwanted email from getting dropped on your desktop. I could handle it if there was a way to automatically negotiate with the remote server and give them a secure keycode or token to allow an encrypted transmission to come through. PGP is good but its not automatic.

The email clients could have maybe four levels of security. SPAM or JUNK, the lowest could be just dumped daily if convenient. Unmanaged, would be the advertising that is of some use and maybe job related. Managed would be the email you wanted to get from vendors and the like and it would have the security features enabled. Corporate would be the company originated email and the most secure.

Another nice feature would be a way to dump forwarded email with spiritual, religious, and/or schmaltzy sentiments back to the originator AND all the people that forwarded it to the hundreds or thousands that got it before you did. (I did say it was a crabby engineer, right?)

Just some ideas.

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