Security

Battle viruses and spam with Mail essentials gateway 6 for Exchange/SMTP

Don't just stand around waiting for the next e-mail virus to strike your network. In this Daily Feature, learn how to build up your network's defenses with Mail essentials.


You have enough to do without dealing with the repercussions of a virus attack or a swarm of spam. Don’t leave it to chance—take charge of your virus-fighting resources by implementing GFI Software LTD’s   Mail essentials gateway 6 for Exchange/SMTP. This package is great because, as you’ll see in this Daily Feature, it stops spam and prevents viruses, plus a whole lot more.

What is Mail essentials gateway 6 for Exchange/SMTP?
Mail essentials gateway 6 for Exchange/SMTP scans for both viruses and spam and performs content checking as well. It also includes some terrific features, such as:
  • Disclaimers that can be applied forest-wide or by specific domain
  • Auto-replies (out of office replies) that can be customized
  • Automatic compression to .ZIP or .EXE of all outbound mail attachments
  • Archiving of all inbound and/or outbound mail
  • PGP encryption
  • Dial-up connections
  • POP3 downloading

Pricing for Mail essentials is extremely competitive, starting out at $350 for 10 licenses. Per mailbox license costs decrease with the more licenses that you buy.

Everybody deserves a second chance
If you missed it the first time around, be sure to check out my Daily Feature “Protect Exchange 2000 from spam and viruses with Symantec AVF,” in which I introduce one of my favorite programs for dealing with spam and viruses in an Exchange environment.

Working with Mail essentials
Getting Mail essentials up and running was a relatively pleasant experience, especially considering the amount of work involved. As a part of the installation routine, Mail essentials’ Setup program starts and stops several Exchange services to accomplish its integration with Exchange.

Mail essentials installs its own customized MMC console, from which you perform all configuration and management tasks. Additionally, Mail essentials installs a moderator client.

In its default configuration, Mail essentials is ready-to-go in regards to virus scanning and attachment blocking. Mail essentials uses the Norton antivirus engine, just the same as Symantec AVF, so that the virus scanning capabilities of each should be comparable. Mail essentials blocks the following file extensions by default:
  • ade
  • adp
  • bas
  • bat
  • chm
  • cmd
  • com
  • cpl
  • crt
  • exe
  • hlp
  • hta
  • inf
  • ins
  • isp
  • js
  • jse
  • lnk
  • mdb
  • mde
  • msc
  • msi
  • msp
  • mst
  • ole
  • pcd
  • pif
  • reg
  • scr
  • sct
  • shb
  • shs
  • url
  • vb
  • vbe
  • vbs
  • wsc
  • wsf
  • wsh
  • wmd
  • wmz

As you can see, the list is fairly inclusive, but you can add or remove extensions as you see fit. For example, you may want to remove the .gif and .jpg extensions from the list if your users must send and receive images. Note that the AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs virus caught a lot of people off guard because of its misnamed extension. Mail essentials can catch this sort of thing.

When hit with incoming viruses and forbidden attachments, Mail essentials is up to the task of protecting your messaging system. To show how it works, I tested my implementation using the GFI Email Security Testing Zone. Figure A shows the e-mail alert that Mail essentials sent out upon scanning the infected inbound mail. You will receive an alert for each event that Mail essentials took action against. This e-mail was sent to me for administrative action, either approval or deletion, which can be done from within the e-mail itself.

Figure A
Mail essentials sends out e-mail alerts with quarantine data.


Alternatively, you may wish to use the Mail essentials moderator client, shown in Figure B, which can be distributed to other administrators to help ease the burden of cleaning out quarantined items.

Figure B
The moderator client helps you deal with virus infection.


One of Mail essentials’ nicest features is that you can configure it to download and install virus definition updates automatically. It was interesting to see that, even though I had downloaded the most up-to-date virus definitions available just an hour before during the initial installation, Mail essentials downloaded and installed an updated set while I was testing it. In a gateway-scanning configuration, this was a welcome sight to behold.

You’re not forced to use the provided virus scanning capability of Mail essentials. You can configure it to use Norton AntiVirus NT v5.0, Norton AntiVirus 2000, or McAfee NetShield NT 4.0.3a. However, because the Mail essentials virus scanner is so good, I am not sure why you would want to.

Mail essentials has its own quarantine folder as well, which is located at x:\Program Files\Mail essentials 2000\Quarantine by default, where x is the volume on which you’ve installed Mail essentials. Should you decide to venture into the Pending folder using Windows Explorer, which is where the quarantined e-mails are actually kept, you’ll find your quarantined items saved as harmless ASCII text files.

Wrap-up
On average, there are about five new viruses a day working their way around the Internet looking for new victims. You should do all that you can to ensure that they don’t make your network their new home. Mail essentials is a good choice for network administrators who want to have complete control over what goes in and out of their Exchange servers.

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