“Email filtering,” also known as “spam filtering,” is almost certainly something you are familiar with. However, do you truly know what filtering means and why it is a vital component in reducing your business’s vulnerability to data theft and crippling viruses, as well as protecting your reputation?
What Does Filtering Do Exactly?
Depending on the email system your business is using, and whether you have purchased greater capability in your software, filtering is available with varying degrees of sophistication. All solutions will separate spam from legitimate emails based on the following principle and factors:
Basic Filtering: Every Email Gets a “Score”
It’s a fact that 99% of all emails sent globally are spam. The artificial intelligence (AI) in a filtering solution considers three key elements within an email and utilizes a scoring process to determine whether the email is legitimate or spam. Those three elements are as follows:
Element #1 – The Sender
Filtering AI checks whether the domain of the sender is trustworthy by considering if it has a known history of sending spam. It then checks if the server sending the message is authorized to send it on behalf of that sender’s domain. For example, is that message from JohnSmith@xyz.com originating from a server authorized to send mail on behalf of the domain xyz.com?
Element #2 – Subject Line
Filtering AI checks if the subject line of each email contains words or keyword groupings commonly found in spam. If the subject line includes sexually suggestive terms, prescription drug names, or even simple words common in spam messages, like “free,” the filter counts this against a message.
Element #3 – Email Text
Several conditions of the email message text itself are considered during the spam scoring process. The filtering AI looks for several things, including:
- Certain Words – The message’s body text is reviewed for word strings that are common in well-known malicious messages such as “donate to,” “free,” or “winner.” Email hoax writers tend to write in an emotive, over-the-top style peppered with words and phrases such as “urgent,” “danger,” “worst virus ever,” and so on. (For more on how to recognize spam/scam emails yourself, check out our recent blog post on Common Scams & How to Protect Yourself.)
- ALL CAPS – Another characteristic feature of spam or scam emails is the prevalence of words and sentences written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to attempt to add urgency to a message.
- Invisible Commands – Hidden commands, such as directions to automatically open a web link in your browser or install a malicious application on your computer, are sometimes lurking in particularly nasty messages.
- Attachments – Many attachments you receive are useful files that you need to accomplish your work, but unfortunately, scammers also use attachments to spread viruses and exploit users. If a message has an attachment, filtering will determine the likelihood that it is safe for the recipient to open.
How Is Email/Spam Filtering Delivered?
Now that you understand how basic email filtering works, you are probably wondering how you can receive it or access it for your business. The good news is that you probably already have some basic filtering set up; (if not, you are dealing with hundreds or even thousands of unnecessary spam messages every day).
Filtering for business email is delivered in one of two ways:
- Through software that is installed directly on your server or firewall.
- Provided via a service in the cloud. (For those Technical Action Group clients who are already purchasing spam filtering and web defense services from us, your filtering is cloud-based. Congratulations! You’re already protected!)
Next Level Protection
The premium, cloud-based email/spam filtering services that Technical Action Group offers our clients take protection beyond the basics we discussed above. These solutions have databases they share with their competitors that look at real-time, up-to-the-second email patterns throughout the world, and can detect hundreds of thousands of emails that are similar, (which increases the likelihood that they are spam). Because cloud-based services leverage collaboration, the filtering AI can learn spam patterns at an accelerated rate compared to filtering that is directly installed, which continually reduces the amount of spam making it to your inbox even as new email spam schemes are created.
Cloud-based filtering services offer the enhanced benefit of filtering being done outside of your network, which reduces the load on your internet connection, server, and individual computers.
We have already touched on some of the obvious benefits of email filtering, but let’s dig a little deeper. No matter how your email filtering is delivered, you are receiving many benefits to your business that you may not even realize. Premium, cloud-based solutions offer both inbound and outbound filtering to keep your users’ inboxes safe, but also assure that your domain does wind up on spam “blacklists.”
How Inbound Filtering Protects You
As is plain from the name, the inbound email filter examines all messages coming into your domain from the outside. It’s quietly helping you and your staff stay more productive by preventing the need to sift through and delete potentially hundreds of spam messages throughout each workday. As previously discussed, inbound filtering keeps you safe by reducing the risk of unwittingly inviting a virus or malicious attack transmitted by email to wreak havoc on your internal network.
How Outbound Filtering Protects You (and Your Contacts)
You would never purposely send spam, but if your network is infected with a virus, a spam attack could be launched to the outside world from your network without you knowing it. Besides the embarrassment an event of this type causes, your domain will be blacklisted by organizations on the internet that will stop delivery of all of your legitimate emails, and this means that your clients and prospects could stop receiving all email from your business. Resolving a hack of this kind requires much effort from your IT support team, plus it could take up to 30 days to clear your domain from the blacklists.
Having outbound filtering in place is vital to prevent the above from happening, and to protect the integrity of your domain. When you send a message to a client or prospect, the filter makes sure that the messages leaving your network are not infected. It also ensures that your domain’s reputation on the internet is trustworthy, which decreases the likelihood of your emails being categorized as spam. In the event of a hijack or virus in your network, outbound filtering will suspend spam mail from leaving your network until the spam issue can be handled by your IT support team. Resolution of this issue is a lot quicker than waiting for your domain to be removed from blacklists.
Good News: All This Protection Costs Less Than You May Think
A full solution for inbound and outbound filtering costs only between $3 and $5 per staff member per month. Why risk your business’s security?
Not sure how well you’re protected today? Contact us now for a free “Stop the Spam!” consultation. We will review your current setup and either give you a clean bill of health or show you how we can protect you.