FireEye Updates Server Email Security Platform for Advanced Threats

The new 8.2 release of the server edition of FireEye Email Security includes advanced capabilities to help organizations defend against email impersonation and malware delivery attacks.

FireEye Email Security

FireEye updated its on-premises security capabilities with the launch of the FireEye Email Security - Server Edition 8.2 release on Jan. 9.

FireEye Email Security - Server Edition 8.2 provides organizations with new capabilities to detect advanced email threats, including executive impersonation, which is often referred to as Business Email Compromise (BEC). FireEye has also integrated the MalwareGuard machine learning technology from its Endpoint security platform to help protect email systems against evolving risks. Additionally, the core detection sandbox within FireEye Email Security has been improved to help organizations customize the technology for their own specific environment.

"A lot of the new features have been led by frontline experience from the FireEye incident response teams and from the intel team as well," Ken Bagnall, vice president of email security at FireEye, told eWEEK. "Also, we do have customer advisory boards where customers bring up issues they're having with email security and what's getting through the security services that they need us to focus on."

Bagnall emphasized that the primary goal with FireEye Email Security 8.2 is to catch threats that are not being caught by other means or technology. He added that the focus in the update is on dealing with the mitigation techniques that attackers have used to bypass email security services in the past.

The need for advanced email security is something that FireEye has been publicly reporting on in recent months. According to FireEye's 2018 Email Threat Report, which was released in September 2018, email is the point of entry for 91 percent of all cyber-attacks. 

Guest Image Customization

One of the capabilities of FireEye's email security technology is a service known as the MVX engine, which provisions a virtual machine to open up new attachments. The purpose of the virtual machine is to provide an isolated area where an attachment can be opened without risk to the underlying operating system.

The virtual machine images are set up by FireEye to mimic different operating system and application versions. Bagnall said that FireEye spins up approximately 100 virtual machines for every attachment and those machines run with all the different versions of Word, for example. With the 8.2 update, FireEye is now providing the ability for organizations to customize the virtual image that is used to open attachments.

"It's important that customers can customize what that virtual image looks like, so it looks like one of the machines in their organization," Bagnall said. "So that allows them to actually put in web browser history, make sure it's their domain and that they have email traffic in there."

Through experience, FireEye has learned that certain types of attacks look for very specific markers and environments before actually detonating a malicious payload. As such, if the sandbox in which an attachment is opened isn't exactly the same as the real environment, it might not trigger a malicious action that would be triggered on the real end-user email system.

URL Rewrite

FireEye's experience has also led to the finding that not all malicious links or web addresses are immediately activated. In some cases, attackers will wait to make a given link malicious, in an attempt to trick an initial address scan into ranking a link as being safe.

With the 8.2 update, FireEye is adding a URL Rewrite feature that runs links through a proxy. Bagnall said the rewrite is able to provide a delayed analysis of links, such that even if a link becomes malicious in the future, it can be detected.


MalwareGuard is now also coming to FireEye Email Security - Server with the 8.2 release. The MalwareGuard technology is a machine learning engine that was first introduced as part of the FireEye Endpoint Security 4.5 release in July 2018. The MalwareGuard feature provides organizations with a method to autonomously detect and classify malware. 

"It's using machine learning to identify malicious binaries," Bagnall explained. 

For example, if there is an executable file that is attached to an email, MalwareGuard will be able to identify whether the file is malicious or not. Bagnall added that MalwareGuard provides yet another layer of protection for email security.

"It's pretty important that we are able to catch what other people are missing," he said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.