Review: Symantec Eyes Total E-Mail Security

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Solution providers have turned to security vendors for the tools to combat productivity draining unsolicited e-mail. Many of those tools only address part of the problem, which has forced solution providers to integrate a mishmash of products to offer the proper levels of protection.

Symantec hopes to reinvent the e-mail security market with the release of Symantec Mail Security for SMTP 5.0, a software product that brings antispam, antivirus and content filtering under a single management umbrella. What’s more, the product’s intelligent handling of e-mail protects against e-mail borne threats such as phishing schemes and the passing of confidential information.

While on the surface Symantec’s product doesn’t seem to break any new ground, that assessment couldn’t be any farther from the truth. What Symantec has accomplished with Mail Security for SMTP 5.0 is a synergy between what were once very different technologies. Instead of an administrator having to worry about multiple e-mail threats in various forms, threat management is now under the realm of a single, comprehensive security system. It becomes a simple method of dictating whether an e-mail is safe or unsafe, all in a single process.

Symantec has accomplished that by combining the best-of-breed capabilities from the previous generation of Mail Security for SMTP with the robust feature set of the recently acquired Brightmail antispam product line. Symantec’s expertise with antivirus technology and content filtering applications are also integrated into the product.

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The browser-based interface of the product echoes that synergy. Full integration of the various security modules has been accomplished and management has been streamlined to the point that securing e-mail can become a mostly automated background task. That capability is further evidenced by the inclusion of zero-day protection schemes, based upon Symantec’s realtime network, which keeps the software signatures up to date as security flaws are detected on the company’s worldwide network.

Symantec Mail Security for SMTP 5.0 take it a step further with outbound mail scanning. Any mail leaving the organization is also passed through the Mail Security product. That chore prevents worms and viruses from spreading, e-mail server hijacking and, most importantly, allows a company to enforce compliance rules. Compliance has become the latest buzzword in the IT industry, but it is a buzzword with teeth. Compliance is driven by legislative requirements that are targeted at several business lines, from health-care establishments in the form of HIPAA to financial companies in the form of Sarbanes-Oxley.

Above and beyond legislative requirements, it is in a company’s best interest to control outbound e-mail. That control can prevent information that can generate liabilities from leaving the organization, including personnel information such as social security numbers to sensitive billing details, such as credit card numbers. What’s more, the content filtering engine can prevent unauthorized transmission of customer lists, resumes and proprietary information. That can reduce concerns about corporate espionage and fraud.

Administrators will find a powerful reporting engine included with the product. Reports can be customized to highlight critical elements, document mail server loads, identify attacks and determine return on investment. Reporting, like many other features of the product, is wizard-driven and offers a concise methodology for generating and saving reports. The initial design of the product will offer separate licensing for antispam and antivirus capabilities, allowing companies to buy just the capabilities needed.

To help smooth sales, Symantec is offering 30-day free trials of the advanced capabilities. Users can then buy official upgrades to activate the features beyond the trial period.

While the need has been clearly identified for businesses to enact e-mail security, few products on the market approach what Symantec has accomplished with a single, centrally managed product.

The key features Symantec Mail Security for SMTP 5.0 offers the channel are found with the product's overall ease of use and integrated intelligence. What’s more, since the product is software-based, scalability is as easy as adding more powerful hardware. That makes the product suitable for businesses of any size.

Symantec expects to ship the product, unveiled this week, to channel partners before the end of May.