1 Content 1 Spam detection problem 1.1 What is spam? 1.2 How is spam detected? 2 Infomail 3 EveryCloud Spam Filter features 3.1 Cloud architecture 3.2 Incoming traffic protection Mail traffic rerouting Processing steps Preliminary steps Active analysis Infomail handling buffers/caches 3.3 Virus protection 3.4 Outbound security 3.5 Attachment filter/content filter
2 1 Spam Detection Problem? 1.1 What is spam? Wikipedia defines spam as the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately. This definition reflects the experience of most people who have been bothered by spam. Unfortunately, technical application of the definition is difficult: How does a system know that an is unsolicited, and that the recipient has not in fact given permission for it to be sent? Unsolicited does not necessarily mean unwanted - it is quite possible for an unsolicited to be welcome, e.g. an enquiry from a new customer. What exactly is advertising? Because of this, it is unsurprising that different people have different opinions as to whether a Particular is legitimate or spam. In fact, it is not uncommon for one person to class a message as spam on one occasion and as a legitimate on another. So how can a technical system deliver the required result with a high degree of reliability? 1.2 How is spam detected? Due to the difficulty of technically implementing the correct definition of spam, many spam filter manufacturers use another definition, the mass mail criterion. According to this, an is classed as spam if it is sent to a large number of different addressees within a short space of time, possibly also by various senders. Unfortunately, this also includes certain types of legitimate such as newsletters. On the other hand, individual or low volume s with clearly abusive content are not detected via the mass mail criterion. In light of the different definitions of spam, details of detection rates and false classification rates are difficult to compare. At most, they can be accurately predicted on an individual basis, i.e. for each individual user. For this reason, every user must ultimately decide for themselves which s they want to receive and which they do not, and transmit this information to the spam filter. The spam filter must then reproduce this decision in the best possible way. However, a spam filter must also produce good results for the user even in its basic configuration, otherwise the effort required to train the filter would be shifted to individual users, which defeats the point of an automatic system. As spam is constantly changing, ongoing filter updates are also very important; the best filter is useless if it is supplied with outdated information. Spam often comes in waves. These spam waves typically last between a few minutes and a couple of hours. A filter update after the wave has finished
3 would have no effect, and a large volume of unwanted s would pass through and reach users inboxes. A fast and tiered response is therefore important in the event of a spam wave. First, automatic measures take effect, and then in a second step, new rules that are specially designed for the new type of spam are created and activated. As spam messages also change constantly during a wave, often this process must be repeated multiple times in the course of a wave. 2 Info mail The majority of spam s are very clearly identifiable as spam, but there is a grey area where it is not easy to determine whether the recipient would want to receive an or not. This grey area covers many newsletters, for instance. Newsletters sent by are legitimate provided that legal requirements are met. In these cases, it cannot be assumed that the s are unsolicited. The same is true for initial contact by ; although in such cases the received is unsolicited, it cannot automatically be assumed that it is undesirable. EveryCloud defines info mail as s that users do not consider undesirable but which disrupt the day-to-day workflow and distract from more important s. Separate info mail handling is therefore a useful and cost saving feature of the EveryCloud spam filter. 3 EveryCloud spam filter features 3.1 Cloud architecture EveryCloud uses the principle of the public cloud to protect its customers systems and networks against attacks from the Internet. To do this, EveryCloud systems are set up outside the customer s internal network, like the outworks of a fortress. EveryCloud forms the gateway for conveying s from the Internet into the customer s internal network. This offers significant benefits: Extremely redundant and distributed overall system layout, making it more powerful and more resilient against attacks than individual installations Defence against attacks, malware, etc. outside the customer s infrastructure, reducing strain and threats to the infrastructure Simplification of protection systems at the perimeter of the customer s network, making them more resilient and cost effective, and significantly reducing the administrative load 24/7 system monitoring by security experts, ensuring security even outside the working hours of the customer s own IT staff
4 EveryCloud solutions offer full multi-client capability, and have tiered user permissions. Data is stored hierarchically, ensuring that users are only able to access the relevant hierarchy level at all times. EveryCloud systems are run from several distributed and secure data centres. 3.2 Incoming traffic protection Mail traffic rerouting EveryCloud systems are set up as a firewall between the Internet and the customer s IT infrastructure. For incoming traffic, it is therefore important to ensure that s sent to the customer from the Internet are routed via EveryCloud systems and not directly to the customer s infrastructure. On the Internet, the mail exchanger record (MX record) in the domain name service (DNS) specifies which server is responsible for receiving a domain s s. To reroute the incoming traffic, the MX record for the customer s domain is changed so that it points to the EveryCloud mail gateway. s to this domain are then automatically transmitted without further intervention from the sender s mail server to the EveryCloud infrastructure, where they are checked and forwarded to the customer s server (Figure). Figure 1: rerouting via EveryCloud infrastructure The customer s firewall is also set up so that only s from EveryCloud networks pass through the firewall. This is necessary as malicious s could otherwise be sent directly to the mail server, bypassing the MX record and therefore bypassing EveryCloud protection. After changing the firewall, any direct delivery attempt will fail, and the customer s systems are definitively safe from spam.
5 The new setting also ensures that denial of service (DoS) attacks on the customer s mail infrastructure are considerably more difficult. The aim of these attacks is to completely prevent network traffic by flooding lines and systems with extremely high numbers of data packets. If these attacks do not target the EveryCloud infrastructure but the customer s infrastructure by bypassing the MX record, they are now easily blocked by the firewall and not allowed through to the mail server Processing steps By altering the MX record, wanted and unwanted s to the customer s domain are sent to the EveryCloud gateway systems. There, s are processed in two stages: Preliminary gateway analysis (blocking) and active analysis with final virus check (Figure). Figure 2: route through EveryCloud systems and analysis stages Preliminary gateway analysis (blocking) The primary goal in the preliminary analysis stage is to detect known senders of unwanted s (spam) and malicious content before the message is finally transmitted. Detection should take place in this very early stage if possible so as not to use unnecessary bandwidth or processing resources. While the connection is established by the forwarding mail server, information about the sending server, such as its unique Internet IP address, is received and analysed by the EveryCloud systems. Using this information and extensive, carefully maintained databases, EveryCloud can detect definitely known spammers and prevent transmission. This process is frequently referred to as IP
6 black listing. Similar mechanisms are used to monitor the number of connection attempts by the sending server and to limit them if necessary, thus providing protection against denial of service or flooding. If analysis during connection does not produce a negative result, further examination of the data will begin. Checks during transmission of header information establish whether this is an attempt to deliver unwanted s or even to transmit computer viruses, worms and links to hijacked and infected websites. The following detection mechanisms are used in the first stage: Monitoring the number of connection attempts Blocking specific IP addresses that are definitely known to be spammers Checking the existence of the recipient, e.g. SMTP pass-through check Checking header and subject information Compliance with traffic transmission standards Detecting clear spam patterns The sender does not receive positive acknowledgement that the has been received unless all stages of the preliminary analysis in the EveryCloud spam filter are successfully completed without detecting known spam, computer viruses or other unwanted or potentially harmful content. If the is classified as spam during the preliminary analysis, the connection is terminated and an error message returned instead of an acknowledgement. A special feature is the SMTP pass-through check. This feature can be adjusted for a domain by the administrator, and ensures that the destination server is checked to determine whether the can be delivered before it is accepted by the EveryCloud gateway. This ensures at an early stage that s to non-existent addresses or recipients with full inboxes for example are not transmitted. In the event of an error message from the destination server, this exact error message is forwarded to the sending server and the is rejected. Statistically, 95% of spam delivery attempts are currently detected and rejected during preliminary gateway analysis (as of October 2012). Nonetheless, the preliminary analysis is deliberately set up to allow s through in case of doubt. The primary goal here is to avoid false positives, i.e. incorrect classification - and therefore rejection - of legitimate s as spam. If an is incorrectly rejected during preliminary analysis, which is statistically extremely rare, the content of the error message is used by the sending mail server to inform the sender of the rejection. The sender can then contact the EveryCloud support team via a neutral website, and
7 inform them of the incorrect rejection. The EveryCloud support team will immediately check the message and take the necessary steps to prevent this from being repeated. The sender will be informed of the measures taken. Administrators and users also have a complete overview of all accepted and rejected s at all times in the EveryCloud control panel. Details such as the sender and recipient addresses, date and time, subject, IP address of the sending server and the status message of the receiving mail server are displayed and used as search criteria. Because the message ID is also displayed, this can also help when searching for a particular message on the mail server Active analysis If an has passed the preliminary analysis processes, the sending mail server will receive confirmation of successful transmission. By contrast, in the event of a negative preliminary analysis, acknowledgement of receipt is denied and an appropriate error message is transmitted to the sending server instead. Users of the EveryCloud spam filter service can control the next processes. Selective white listing allows receipt to be specifically and individually permitted for particular domains and recipients, while blacklisting similarly allows s from particular senders to be marked as spam. Very powerful further options for handling messages are available by entering rules in the EveryCloud spam filter compliance module. Various aspects of the received are checked during active analysis. By using highly specialised algorithms developed by EveryCloud, content is systematically analysed depending on the content. Content is evaluated structurally, syntactically, semantically and heuristically. As well as text content, image information and text in images are also analysed. To do this, real time optical character recognition (OCR) is also used if necessary to detect spam messages sent as images. External content or links to websites are compared with known spam patterns. Figure shows an overview of the process. In addition to this, all s undergo a final computer virus check before delivery to the recipient. Known and detected viruses are completely blocked and not delivered to the user. New and previously unknown viruses are detected by the early warning system using outbreak detection. s are also checked for phishing links and URLs to malicious code or websites that pose a security risk. More information on the virus defence methods used can be found in section called Virus Protection.
8 The following detection mechanisms are used in the second stage: Heuristic filter Bayesian filter Content analysis Optical character recognition (OCR) Domain and user-specific black lists and white lists Virus check Figure 3: Overview of the spam detection stages used by EveryCloud The EveryCloud content filter works downstream of spam detection. During this stage, s with undesirable attachments are blocked or have their attachments removed according to adjustable criteria.
9 The is not delivered to the recipient until it has passed the checks in all of the processes. If an is identified as unwanted during one of these checks, the is logged and moved to quarantine, and the recipient is informed via a status (Figure). The status frequency is configurable. Access to s in quarantine is also possible via the EveryCloud control panel (Figure). Due to the high detection rate during preliminary analysis, comparatively few spam s are filtered out in the second stage, which keeps quarantine small and manageable. Need an ECT quarantine screen shot here Figure 4: Spam report (digest) with newly quarantined Using comprehensive, specialist content-dependent algorithms, EveryCloud can contractually guarantee a spam detection rate of 99.9% for the spam filter service. A rate of over 99.99% is consistently achieved in practice. The contractually guaranteed false positive rate is below %. Need a screen shot of ECT Control Panel Workspace Figure 5: Complete overview of traffic in the EveryCloud control panel Info mail handling s that users do not generally consider undesirable but which disrupt the day-to-day workflow and distract from more important s, e.g. user-requested newsletters, are classed as info mail by EveryCloud. Because these messages are not spam in the strict sense, they are handled separate- Administrators can activate the info mail filter for their entire domain in the control panel. It is also possible to configure whether users can activate or deactivate info mail handling themselves, regardless of the domain settings. When the info mail filter is activated, info mails and newsletters are filtered out and placed in quarantine like spam s. These s are separately marked as info mail in both the spam report and control panel. This provides users with an overview of the info mails they receive, and allows them to deliver individual info mails with a click (Figure6).
10 Need a ECT Spam report with Info Mail Figure 6: Spam report with info mail buffers/caches If the SMTP pass-through check is activated and the server is temporarily not accepting incoming s, EveryCloud will forward this information to the sending mail server in incoming traffic. Normally, the sending mail server will then take over buffering. If this is not the case, or if the buffer time in the sending mail server is too short, the will normally be reported to the sender as undeliverable by the sending mail server. If an SMTP pass-through check is not activated, EveryCloud will buffer incoming s for seven days as standard if the recipient server is unreachable or if delivery is temporarily impossible for other reasons. For technical reasons and to improve filter effectiveness, EveryCloud does not recommend deactivating the SMTP pass-through check without good reason. However, in the event of long downtime for a mail server with SMTP pass-through check activated, EveryCloud recommends that customers contact EveryCloud support. They can temporarily deactivate the SMTP pass-through and activate the buffer. The contents of cached s are deleted from EveryCloud systems after complete transmission, unless the customer uses the continuity service or archive service. 3.3 Virus protection For incoming traffic, all s undergo a final computer virus check before delivery to the recipient. The check consists of a series of mechanisms. The following processes are used to protect against viruses: Modified ClamAV scanner The signature-based ClamAV is used for known viruses. EveryCloud modifies and expands the available virus signatures to achieve their required standards for detection capability, speed and false positive prevention. Signatures are updated at least every half hour. EveryCloud virus scanner
11 The EveryCloud virus scanner uses signatures that are specially developed and optimised for viruses spread by . Signature updates every 60 seconds allow very fast, more flexible and more comprehensive detection than with a generic scanner such as ClamAV. EveryCloud phishing filter The phishing filter analyses links/urls in s to detect downloadable malicious code. For this purpose, the filter detects downloadable malicious script commands, etc. This allows phishing s and malicious drive-by downloads to be detected. EveryCloud outbreak engine EveryCloud constantly analyses incoming s for unusual attachments, links, senders or content using honeypot accounts ( addresses with only one purpose, receiving spam). Signatures are derived from this analysis within an extremely short time (typically < 5 minutes). G DATA signature exchange data EveryCloud works with G DATA to detect and successfully filter out new viruses and phishing variants at an early stage. To do this, data with potentially malicious code are continuously exchanged, analysed and the results of the analysis used to detect subsequent transmission of the malicious code. Archives (e.g. ZIP files) are scanned for viruses up to the eighth level. This means that viruses are also found in archives that are in turn stored in archives. Archives with more than eight levels are treated as virus-infected s. Password-protected (encrypted) archives are the exception to this; these are not scanned for viruses. All s that are identified as malicious by the mechanisms above are marked and treated as virus-infected s in quarantine (Figure 7). Only administrators, and not users, can deliver s after they are classified as virus-infected. It is possible to configure in the control panel whether users are informed of virus-infected s in quarantine.
12 Figure 7: s classed as virus-infected in the control panel EveryCloud guarantees an traffic virus detection rate of 99.99% in relation to the total number of incoming transmission attempts. 3.4 Outbound security The EveryCloud relay service is included in the EveryCloud spam filter service. The relay service increases security in outgoing traffic. To use the relay service, the EveryCloud mail relay is entered as a smart host or relay on the customer s mail server. Outgoing s are then sent by the customer s mail server to the EveryCloud mail relay, where they are checked and forwarded to the destination address on the Internet. The following checks are carried out in the relay: Check for known viruses Check for compliance with policies regarding attachments (content filter) Basic check for spam distribution Check for unusual traffic (active bots in customer network) It is also sensible to close the firewall for outgoing traffic, so that s from the internal network (SMTP port) can only be sent to EveryCloud relays. This will make it considerably more difficult for any potentially active bots in the internal network to send out spam.
13 Sending outgoing s via the EveryCloud relays also activates a further feature, EveryCloud bounce management. Bounce s are messages generated automatically by mail servers to provide information about a user s absence or an delivery delay, for example. Genuine bounces are desirable; the problem is bounces that are received by a user due to fake sender addresses. Spammers frequently use fake sender addresses to send their messages. For example, if spam is addressed to non-existent addresses, this frequently creates bounce s that are sent to the supposed sender s address. In extreme cases, bounce attacks generated in this way can have a serious adverse effect on the innocent supposed sender s mail systems. EveryCloud bounce management ensures that only genuine bounces in incoming traffic are sent to the recipient, and bounces in response to spam with fake sender addresses are reliably filtered out. All that is required for this is for to be sent via the EveryCloud relay. When sending via the EveryCloud relay, a group-based configurable footer/disclaimer can also be attached, automatically, to outgoing s. This can be used for marketing purposes, for instance, or to ensure that legally required details are included on business correspondence. Use of the EveryCloud relay is also a requirement for revision-proof archiving of outgoing if the EveryCloud archive service is used. 3.5 Attachment filter/content filter Many companies have guidelines for sending or receiving attachments. This is intended to limit the volume of data sent by , and to prevent users from sending undesirable formats (e.g. only PDFs transmitted, but not Office files) or receiving data that poses a potential risk to system security (e.g. executable files). The EveryCloud spam filter service allows guidelines for sending and receiving attachments to be set specifically by user, group or domain (Figure). s with forbidden attachments in outgoing traffic are rejected. s with forbidden attachments in incoming traffic are either rejected or delivered without the forbidden attachment, depending on settings. In the latter case, the complete is cached in quarantine. s that have been quarantined due to a forbidden attachment can be delivered in full to the recipient s inbox by administrators at the click of a button.
14 Figure 8: Setting attachment guidelines in the EveryCloud control panel
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