As the messaging and communication landscape continues to evolve over the years, new communication channels appear and with them, new threats. What used to be a simple mail server configuration handled by local administrators has become a new industry requiring specific skills and expertise. Spammers are using sophisticated techniques to lure end users. Information theft has turned into a trillion dollar industry and is an issue that still isn’t addressed properly by a majority of organizations focused on protecting their customers’ data before securing their own.

Modern email security solutions help address a lot of these issues but Email and IT administrators are sometimes left in the dark by vendors focused solely on profit and cutting costs in an over-commoditized market. Here our aim is to presenting a few tips and features to use and apply in order to improve the security of businesses’ email communication systems. DNSBLs that list domain names are known as URIBLs, in which the content of the email message is checked for any URL’s registered with a URL database. If the URL of an email message from where the email message has come from including any URL’s within the subject or body are found and the URL exists within a URIBL database, then the email message is classified as spam, or suspected spam. URL databases such as SURBL are a list of website domains that have appeared in spam email messages.

Careful about backup mail servers

Many organisations need to have a backup mail server so that email activities continue to operate properly in the event of a server failure. In order to cut costs, some IT administrators will build a mail infrastructure using a single email security gateway sitting in front of the mail server.

Aware of your users’ white-lists
One of the oldest and most common methods for spammers to get through spam filters is by using the white-listed address spoofing. After entering envelope data properly, the spammer can fake a sender identity using the body of the message.

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By using the recipient’s email address as the From address, they are able to get through filters when end-users white-list their own email address. Modern email security solutions will prevent users from white-listing their own email addresses automatically and system-wide but email administrators using older systems should pay attention and inform their end users about this possible backdoor.

Block all EXEs by default

All .exe files should be blocked. And the reason is simple. First, the majority of phishing attempts with drive-by-downloads try to entice end users to download and run .exe files. Second, all malware/viruses/worms are executables and the most common type of executables are .exe files (in a Windows-based environment).

Couple these two facts with Windows’ default permit behavior in terms of security and privileges and these threats get access to the entire computer’s abilities to act as a key logger, a bot, or a disruptive or destructive agent. To add complexity, Windows does not let administrators to easily control and limit execution of programs. Group policies can be used but a lot of software programs expect full control over resources in order to be able to function properly.

In some relatively rare cases, end users need to exchange legit .exe files. When this situation cannot be avoided, IT administrators should add very strict rules to their email security solution, in a highly controlled manner, to authorize specific executables. In the end, it will be a lot faster and easier to manage a list of several dozens authorized executables within a global white-list in the email gateway than complex policies comprising millions of blacklisted malware on a system not optimized or natively designed to handle such permissions.

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