I’m naturally cautious when it comes to emails that are even only somewhat suspicious. We’ve become wise to emails that promise unexpected winnings, an inheritance from a long-lost relative with the same surname, an email supposedly from our bank or Internet provider or the IRD, TradeMe or Ebay, Microsoft support or similar sources.

But this email looks quite normal
It contained an attachment, a file called cv.doc which passed the anti-virus software and turned out to be fine. What’s more is that the email was addressing me by my proper name instead of “Dear Friend” or “Worthy Business Associate”.

In the end, the fact that there was a URL link in the email made me a little suspicious and I investigated further. It turned out that the link pointed to a download which contained a CryptoLocker infected file. By clicking the link, I could have easily lost the data on my computer along with that of all the shares, i.e. the data on the business servers. Our problem is that IT Support is not available for every email that we open. We therefore have to be increasingly aware and vigilant.

So why was this email not picked up as SPAM before it arrived?
Well over half of emails that are sent to you are SPAM emails. The only reason that your mail box is not flooded is that your current SPAM filter is doing its job.

SPAM volumes have actually been dropping
You may be surprised that SPAM volumes have actually been dropping from the previous averages of around 70% two or three years ago to around 50% today, indicating that anti-spam software is discouraging spammers from just sending mass marketing emails. But with the reduction in SPAM volume, the level of stealth and the seriousness of the threats have increased. My email is good example. There is no evidence that spammers are actually getting discouraged, on the contrary, they have just become more targeted and more refined.

SPAM emails now contain more malicious payloads, for example links or attachments in emails that seem genuine may point to malicious online threats. Spammers may also point these URLs to malicious code sometime after the email is sent, allowing the email into your mailbox without getting blocked, as was the case in my email. For these reasons, good SPAM protection is more important than ever. Rather than stopping an irritant, anti-SPAM software must now be designed to block serious threats.

What we do at Tier4 to address the new threats
Where in the past it was sufficient to block as much SPAM as possible, Tier4 has now introduced a managed Anti-SPAM product which is based on the well-known “Mail Marshal” and addresses not only the challenge of managing the volume of SPAM, but also manages the increased threats and stealth.

In addition to blocking unsolicited emails, our managed MailMarshal provides these direct benefits to businesses:

  • Analyses URLs contained in emails to block malicious URLs on incoming emails
  • Analyses any clicked URLs in emails in case the URL targets have changed after the email was received.
  • Provides for the creation of flexible policies for incoming as well as outgoing emails allowing you to control and monitor what your staff is receiving and sending.
  • Provides detailed reporting for management to analyse email trends in the business, not limited to those related to SPAM.
  • Mail retention in case your mail system fails or you need to access historical emails.

This last point is important. If you’ve ever been caught by a mail server outage then you would know that some emails that you were expecting were bounced back to the sender, or at worst, they may even get lost in the Internet ether.

We have introduced two retention options and emails are kept for 7 days of for 3 months depending on the option that you choose. This will ensure that no email that you are expecting to receive gets lost due to an outage on your side.

Along with our existing cloud computing services, the mail washing system is kept in our secure Data Centre in Auckland and further adds to the services that keep your business IT secure and running.

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