Spam accounts for almost 60% of all global email traffic. Most of the time, however, unwanted emails end up being filtered straight into the spam folder, never to be seen again. As such, it’s easy to think of spam as little more than a minor inconvenience.
Unfortunately, matters are a little more complicated. Not only does the vast volume of spam email lead to bandwidth wastage and reduced productivity, it’s also the primary delivery channel for phishing scams and malicious software.
Not so long ago, most spam emails were obvious, even when they didn’t get flagged by spam filters. However, it’s spam that makes it past the filter, which is by far the most dangerous. Oftentimes, these cleverly crafted emails are something far more sinister than unwanted sales messages – they’re likely to be spear-phishing scams targeted toward a specific individual, such as a company executive.
Cybercrime is constantly evolving, and that’s why it’s no longer enough to rely on a standard, consumer-grade spam filter. While there’s no substitute for training your staff as well, an enterprise-ready spam and content filter will be better equipped to handle large volumes of spam and pick out some of the subtler (but most dangerous) threats, such as targeted phishing attacks.
All mainstream email providers feature built-in spam filters. However, while these tend to be perfectly adequate for consumers, business users have far greater requirements and typically need to handle much larger volumes of email. As such, it’s necessary to have an advanced spam and content filtering system that prevents threats from reaching your employees’ inboxes in the first place.
The best filters can handle any volume of spam before offending emails have a chance to reach the inbox. Additionally, they go far beyond relying on blacklists and suspicious keywords alone to block offending IP addresses, domain names, and emails that contain harmful attachments or links. Furthermore, they should be fully customizable, allowing you to create your own blacklists and more.
Traditionally, spam filters relied almost entirely on email blacklists and suspicious key words and phrases. Today, they also incorporate content filtering and allow end users to send feedback. More sophisticated systems also allow you to set up your own blacklists and block specific types of content that might be harmful to your business yet are not widely known to the public.
In business, there are three levels of spam filtering: hosted, desktop and gateway.
Hosted spam filters, which are becoming increasingly popular, are cloud-based systems provided by a service provider. Being proprietary systems, these filters are often integrated with other products and services provided by the vendor. One of the main advantages of hosted spam filters is that they tend to have a much larger database of information to draw from and thus may potentially provide better protection for your business.
By contrast, desktop spam filters are installed on the end user’s computer, making them highly customizable. Since these systems work in conjunction with existing web-based spam filters provided by the email service provider itself, they offer an additional layer of protection. For example, the industry-standard desktop email client Outlook features Microsoft’s own antispam filter SmartScreen, which runs incoming emails through an additional filter once they hit your inbox.
Finally, enterprises may also opt for a gateway spam filter, which is installed on a server located between your company’s computing infrastructure and the outside world. In many cases, a gateway spam filter is included as a feature of a dedicated hardware firewall. Again, this type of system adds an additional layer of protection on top of that provided by your desktop email client and hosted email provider. However, these dedicated systems tend to be prohibitively expensive for smaller organizations.
Nowadays, most companies are making the shift to the cloud for various key reasons such as enhanced cybersecurity. The case for outsourcing spam and content filtering is increasingly strong, since it provides a layer of protection that resides outside your company network.
By operating independently from the rest of your network infrastructure, the hosted approach helps reduce the possibility of threats penetrating your network in the first place, thus helping you keep your company data safe. Additionally, many hosted systems provide outbound mail scanning as well, to ensure employees don’t end up sending confidential information over email.
Dyrand Systems keeps your network safe by monitoring all inbound and outbound web traffic based on a predetermined set of rules. Our systems protect you from a wide range of security threats, including malicious software, spam, phishing scams, and more. Call us today to get your free assessment.