Email gateway products get smart with spam

As spammers get smarter, email security companies Network Associates and Mirapoint have updated their filtering techniques to try and keep pace

Email security technology got smarter this week as Mirapoint announced a new technique for filtering out spam and Network Associates enhanced the functionality of its McAfee security appliances.

Perimeter email security products generally scan incoming Internet traffic to look for email messages that either contain viruses and pose a threat to the network, or conform to rules that expose them as spam. As the number of spam emails and virus attacks continue to increase in volume and sophistication, security companies are updating their products to keep up.

Network Associates on Monday announced it would launch McAfee WebShield 3.0, which will replace its existing e250, e500 and e1000 appliances.

NA's latest weapon against security threats is designed to protect networks from dangerous email attachments and also includes a spam-blocking option. Raj Dhingra, vice president of corporate and product marketing at NA said it is essential to filter traffic as it enters the network.

"IT administrators can implement antivirus and spam protection from the edge of the network to the server, securing the gateway and alleviating the burden of unwanted messages," Dhingra said.

Unlike the more traditional filtering methods employed by NA, Mirapoint on Tuesday announced MailHurdle, a new process for handing incoming emails that will be deployed throughout its product range.

According to Mirapoint, traditional perimeter-scanning products tend to allow all traffic to enter the network before filtering out undesirable traffic, which the company says is a waste of resources.

Steve Ashmore, senior technical consultant at Mirapoint, explained that although the company uses a traditional analytical filtering system to determine what is good and what is bad, it applies the filter on a secondary level.

"We found that 80 percent of spam can be identified without having to analyse it with filtering engines. We can turn away messages even before they have to go through the filters and then ones that haven't been blocked are passed through the filter," Ashmore said.

"We have seen overall effectiveness go up to 98 percent, which is more than any analytical process can manage," Ashmore said.