Friday Jan 19, 2007

Messaging Server: Security Issues with Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus Deployments

When planning to deploy anti-spam or anti-virus technology with Sun Java System Messaging Server, keep in mind that an incorrect deployment can defeat your security measures. The following figure shows an incorrect deployment of an anti-spam/anti-virus filter solution.

The next figure shows a correct deployment of an anti-spam/virus filter solution.

The Messaging Server MTA performs certain functions well, including:

  • Rejecting messages as early as possible
  • Per-user configuration and policy
  • Email security and routing policy
  • Mail queue management

The anti-spam/virus filter is good at determining if an email is spam or has a virus, but is generally not nearly as good at doing the things expected of a good MTA. Thus, do not depend on an anti-spam/virus filter to do those things. Your deployment is more "correct" when the anti-spam/virus filter is well integrated with the MTA, which is the case with Messaging Server. Messaging Server spam filter plug-in support provides all the potential reasons to reject a message early and applies all reasons at the same time.

A robust MTA, such as Messaging Server's, contains security features (SSL/TLS, traffic partitioning by IP address, early address rejection to reduce denial-of-service attacks, connection throttling by IP address/domain, and so on), which are defeated when an anti-spam/virus filter is deployed in front. Furthermore, anti-spam/virus filters that communicate by using the SMTP protocol often do not follow the robustness requirements of SMTP and thus lose email when they shouldn't. A correct deployment should have the anti-spam/virus filter working in conjunction with a robust MTA.

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