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Stop Spam with Awareness and Technology

April 14, 2008

Summary

Small and Mid-sized businesses continue to face the security risks and administrative burden that spam presents. Email’s many benefits, including the convenience of faster and easier communication make it easy to overlook its risks.

Introduction

Small and Mid-sized businesses continue to face the security risks and administrative burden that spam presents. Email's many benefits, including the convenience of faster and easier communication make it easy to overlook its risks. However, there are many threats facing email, and they change constantly. Understanding the nature of current spam threats can help you and your employees identify a potentially risky message before any harm is done. Awareness, coupled with the right security technologies, will minimize the risks associated with email so you can communicate with confidence.

Current spam trends

Over the years, spammers have continued to refine their methods to find new ways to evade spam filters and deceive recipients. According to Symantec's March 2008 State of Spam report, social engineering was the driving force behind spammers during the month of February. The Report also found that spam accounted for 78.5% of all email volume in February – up from a 61% average for the first half of 2007. This abundance of unsolicited and often dangerous email places a significant strain on networks, budgets, and employee productivity.

Tactics didn't stray much from tradition this past month, employing social engineering schemes involving popular public figures, celebrities, and events. Here are some highlights of the Report, which discusses the four hottest spam techniques in February 2008:
  • Capitalizing on candidates: Amidst the heated race to the White House, spammers have been using Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, and John McCain to boost their spam campaigns. Just what are spammers linking the candidates with? Everything from Viagra, porn, and get-rich-quick schemes to portable de-wrinkle machines
  • Bogus celebrity videos: Spammers are using Michael Jackson, Heather Mills, Indiana Jones and other recognized names to spread malicious links to videos. Spammers are leveraging their names to tempt users into opening malicious links. These are often easy to spot, however, because in most cases the names are misspelled.
  • Holiday celebrations: There was no shortage of events and holidays for spammers to leverage in February (i.e. the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day). International Women’s Day is the latest celebratory target.
  • Free airline tickets: Recently, spammers hijacked the Southwest Airlines brand to offer free tickets to users. In order to claim the tickets, recipients were directed to register their details, complete a survey, and possibly make some purchases from the spammer. The purpose of the spam email is to collect personal information from the recipient.
Admittedly, some of the tactics employed by spammers are humorous. The impact of a successful spam message on a SMB, however, is serious. User education and awareness about spam techniques and messages are a good first line of defense. Next, a comprehensive solution to protect and regulate all email communications and content must be employed.

All-in-one protection

For many of today's SMBs, the email security issue is compounded by the challenge of keeping up with growing messaging and spam volumes while keeping costs down. SMBs need a solution that will:
  • Stop spam, denial-of-service attacks, and other inbound email threats
  • Reduce email infrastructure costs by restricting unwanted connections
  • Filter email content to remove unwanted content, demonstrate regulatory compliance, and protect against intellectual property and data leakage over email
  • Secure and protect public IM communications using the same management console as email
  • Obtain visibility into messaging trends and events with minimal administrative burden
The Symantec Mail Security 8300 Series appliances do all that and more, delivering antispam, antivirus, and advanced content filtering technologies, in either a physical or virtual appliance form factor. Symantec Mail Security 8300 Series appliances are easy to configure and deploy, and spam signatures and virus definitions are automatically updated. Symantec appliances protect the messaging infrastructure and help ensure uptime and user productivity by reducing spam volume and keeping email secure. The Symantec Mail Security 8300 engine delivers greater than 97% effectiveness without sacrificing accuracy with false positive verdicts. The appliances combine email and IM scanning and filtering capabilities in a single product.

Conclusion

Despite its risks, email is thriving as the preferred mode of communication among many SMBs. Therefore, protection against inbound and outbound email-borne threats is an absolute must. For spam messages that make it through filters to your inbox, user awareness is your best hope for stopping spam. The Symantec Mail Security 8300 Series appliance will help prevent spam and other risky data from getting inside your network in the first place. In addition, the solution's advanced content filtering and data support reduces the risks associated with data leakage, and helps meet current regulatory compliance mandates governing email. Symantec solutions can help you and your employees enjoy the benefits of email – without any of the risk.

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