Put E-Mail Servers on Security Checklist

Any system exposed to the Internet is subject to attack at any time

Any system exposed to the Internet is subject to attack at any time. Most IT managers employ firewalls and intrusion detection systems to guard the e-business infrastructure, but e-mail servers often go unprotected.

Like other Internet-facing systems, e-mail servers can be exposed to spam, viruses and even hacker attacks. Anti-virus software and proxy add-ons for firewalls provide some protection, but they are passive solutions. Installing software on e-mail servers doesnt guarantee protection and could add performance overhead. Further, the software may not be interoperable in heterogeneous environments.

An alternate solution is e-mail appliances. E-mail appliances can help because they are optimized for the task, are easy to use, use standard protocols and, once properly configured, operate with minimal maintenance.

Vendors such as Mirapoint (www.mirapoint.com) offer e-mail appliances that take care of spam and viruses, but CipherTrust IronMail (www.ciphertrust.com) goes a step further by providing e-mail encryption.

The CipherTrust IronMail appliance sits between an organizations firewall and e-mail servers and runs a hardened operating system to safeguard against hackers. The appliance can filter content for spam, scan for viruses and encrypt all Internet e-mail traffic passing through it. Attacks aimed at a companys e-mail servers will be caught in the appliance, never reaching the servers.

IronMail employs cryptographic accelerators to ensure that it can handle large amounts of encrypted e-mail traffic. The box supports the major e-mail servers and clients, as well as standard Internet protocols such as POP3, SMTP and IMAP.

Although it is nice to be able to manage a single system that takes care of all e-mail security and filtering, this also creates a single point of failure. Therefore, redundancy is important. Most enterprises using an appliance like IronMail will require some form of high-availability system to ensure high performance and constant uptime.

The CipherTrust IronMail appliance doesnt come cheap—$25,000 with redundancy—but for larger corporations that rely on e-mail communications, the extra layer of protection will be worth the price.