SurfControl RiskFilter E-mail E10

  • Editors' rating
    6.5 Good


  • Filter mail in and out
  • SurfControl brand
  • McAfee anti-virus
  • Proxy POP3, IMAP and HTTP servers


  • Little detail on why messages are blocked

SurfControl is a well-established provider of software-based Web and email filtering tools, and the RiskFilter E-mail is the company's first stab at an appliance product. It’s a 1U rack-mount solution, based on an industry-standard Pentium 4 server, running a pre-configured, security hardened, Linux. This, in turn, hosts the SurfControl email antivirus, anti-spam and content filtering tools with a browser-based GUI for management. The RiskFilter E-mail E10 costs £8,500 (ex. VAT) for up to 500 users.

To install the RiskFilter you have to assign it a name and IP address using a local terminal, and then activate the software licence via the browser-based GUI. You then need to tell the RiskFilter software about your mail server(s). Here the SurfControl appliance acts as a message transfer agent, intercepting incoming messages for one or more domains or given IP addresses, filtering them, and then relaying those that pass onto the appropriate mail servers. This routing can be managed via DNS or by specifying the target servers manually, depending on the number involved.

Outgoing mail can also be filtered for viruses and spam, and disclaimers added if required. The RiskFilter can also be configured as a secure proxy for POP3, IMAP and HTTP client mail access. As with many mail server security appliances, it can be used with any SMTP mail host.

The SurfControl GUI is quite easy to master and, with ready configured default policies included, the RiskFilter appliance can be up and working in just a few minutes. McAfee-based antivirus scanning is turned on for all users; spam trapping, similarly, is enabled out of the box. Both of these facilities can be tuned, if necessary, and custom filtering policies set up to specify things like the level of spam detection to apply and what to do with messages trapped by the virus and spam filters.

There are facilities to either drop or quarantine suspect mail and modify headers and subject lines. Attachments can also be stripped. Usefully, users can be allowed to manage their spam directly, either deleting or releasing quarantined messages when notified via an email list containing the necessary links.

Other useful options include user-managed black/white lists and controls over message size and volumes per connection. There are also facilities to protect against Denial of Service (DoS) and directory attacks while to monitor activity there’s a built-in 'dashboard' display supported by a comprehensive set of reporting modules. These provide good basic summary information, although we'd have liked more information as to exactly why some messages had been blocked to help avoid false positives.