Block Incoming Connections by Country with MDaemon’s New Location Screening Feature

Block connections by country with Location Screening
Block connections by country with Location Screening

As I announced recently in this post, MDaemon 17.5 has been released, with new security and collaboration features. One feature that our users will find particularly useful is the new Location Screening feature, which allows administrators to block incoming connections from specific countries. When you consider the scale and widespread distribution of global threats, blocking connections by country can provide the following benefits:

New spam domains, email zombies & phishing sites pop up all over the world every day. In fact, Cyren’s World Threat Map displays a handy visual representation of newly-discovered threats in real-time.

So if you know your company does not do business with certain countries, you can add these locations to MDaemon’s Location Screening feature and stop all traffic from these countries.

In previous versions of MDaemon, the best way to block connections by country was to use the DNS-BL feature, but with MDaemon 17.5, a new, intuitive check-box screen was added.  In this tutorial video, I show you how easy it is to configure Location Screening in MDaemon.

Do you have questions or feedback? If so, click on the “Leave a Comment” link under the title of this post & let us know!

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With today’s massive ransomware outbreak, here are a few reminders of how to avoid becoming a victim.

RansomwareAs I was coaxing myself awake this morning with my usual jolt of strong coffee, I checked my favorite news sites & was informed of yet another ransomware attack. This one, which is believed to have originated from Ukraine, was first thought to be a variation of last year’s Petya ransomware outbreak, but upon further investigation, it appears that today’s malware is a new type – a worm that some computer experts are referring to as “NotPetya“. This attack demands a smaller ransom (in comparison to other attacks) of approximately $300, and then begins to serve its primary purpose – to wipe files on the computer. According to researchers at Symantec, this attack used the same National Security Agency hacking tool, Eternal Blue, that was used in the WannaCry outbreak, as well as two other methods to spread the attack. According to information provided by this article on CNN, if you’ve installed all of the latest Windows patches, you should be safe from this particular strain of malware, however, by no means is this a reason to be complacent. Administrators and end users must still be mindful of safety precautions.

Due to the proliferation of Malware as a Service (MaaS), just about anyone with the desire and the funds can initiate a malware attack, making new & emerging threats a real concern for the foreseeable future. This presents a good opportunity to review best practices for avoiding ransomware – for end users, and for administrators via the tools available in MDaemon and SecurityGateway.

How can end users protect themselves from ransomware?

End users should be aware of the following 18 email safety tips, which originally appeared in this post.

  • Change your password often.
  • Use strong passwords. Never use a password that contains “password” or “letmein”.
  • Use a different password for each of your accounts. If you use the same password for your bank account as you do for your email account, you become much more vulnerable to data theft.
  • Don’t open an attachment unless you know who it is from & are expecting it. Many of today’s social engineering tactics rely on the ability to trick users into opening attachments.
  • Be cautious about email messages that instruct you to enable macros before downloading Word or Excel attachments. This article provides a good overview of why you should not enable macros in Microsoft Word.
  • Use anti-virus software on your local machine, and make sure it’s kept up-to-date with the latest virus definitions.
  • If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know, don’t open it. Delete it immediately.
  • Learn how to recognize phishing
    – Messages that contain threats to shut your account down
    – Requests for personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers
    – Words like “Urgent” – false sense of urgency
    – Forged email addresses
    – Poor writing or bad grammar
  • Hover your mouse over links before you click on them to see if the URL looks legitimate.
  • Instead of clicking on links, open a new browser and manually type in the address.
  • Don’t give your email address to sites you don’t trust.
  • Don’t post your email address to public websites or forums. Spammers often scan these sites for email addresses.
  • Don’t click the “Unsubscribe” link in a spam email. It would only let the spammer know your address is legitimate, which could lead to you receiving more spam.
  • Understand that reputable businesses will never ask for personal information via email.
  • Don’t send personal information in an email message.
  • Don’t reply to spam. Be aware that if you reply to a spam email, your reply most-likely will not go back to the original spammer because the FROM header in the spam message will most-likely be forged.
  • Don’t share passwords.
  • Be sure to log out.

How can administrators protect their systems from ransomware?

The battle against ransomware cannot be fought by users alone. Administrators must also take steps to lock down their email infrastructure. These best practices will help protect your network and users.

Best Practices for MDaemon Administrators

  1. Enable account hijack detection. This feature will automatically disable an account if a designated number of messages are sent from it via an authenticated session in a given period of time. When the account is disabled, the administrator receives a notification so that corrective action can be taken. Instructions for configuring account hijack detection can be found in this knowledge base article.
  2. Enable dynamic screening. Dynamic screening is a feature that blocks future connections from a connecting server or client based on its behavior.  Instructions for configuring dynamic screening can be found here.
  3. Configure the IP Shield. The IP Shielding feature allows administrators to assign an IP address (or IP address range) to email messages from a given domain. Messages claiming to come from a specific domain must originate from one of the approved IP addresses. Exceptions can be made for users connecting from outside of the network who are using SMTP authentication.  Click here for instructions.
  4. Require SMTP Authentication. This helps ensure that the user authenticates with a valid username and password. Instructions can be found here.
  5. Use DKIM & SPF to detect spoofing. DKIM uses a private/public key pair to authenticate a message. When an incoming message is signed with DKIM, a DNS record lookup is performed on the domain taken from the signature and the private key taken from the signature is compared with the public key in the domain’s DNS records. SPF uses a DNS record that lists hosts that are allowed to send mail on behalf of a domain.
  6. Enable DMARC & configure your DMARC record. DMARC (Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) allows domain owners to instruct receiving servers on how to handle messages claiming to come from their domain that did not pass DKIM and SPF lookups.  Learn more here.
  7. Ensure that all connections (SMTP, POP, IMAP), are using SSL. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a method for  encrypting the connection between a client and server, as well as between to servers. Learn more here.
  8. Have a backup strategy. If by chance malware still manages to infect your network, your last resort is to have a reliable backup strategy. Ideally, you should have your systems backed up off-site and, for added safety, secondary backup data should be saved to media that is not connected to the network.

More information on these settings can be found in the following guide on best practices for protecting your users:

Email Server Settings – Best Practices

Best practices for SecurityGateway administrators

SecurityGateway provides an extra layer of anti-spam, anti-spoofing and anti-malware security, in addition to your mail server’s built-in security settings. These best practices will help keep ransomware and other malicious content from reaching your mail server. Each item includes a link with more information.

  1. Require strong passwords.
  2. Query a user verification source to ensure that users are valid.
  3. Require SMTP authentication to prevent unauthorized account access.
  4. Prevent unauthorized mail relaying.
  5. Protect your domain with IP Shielding.
  6. Require SSL encrypted connections.
  7. Configure backscatter protection.
  8. Don’t whitelist local addresses. If a spam messages was spoofed with one of your local addresses, this could allow the spam message to bypass various security features. This why it is recommended that no local addresses be added to your whitelist.
  9. Enable spam & virus Outbreak Protection.

These steps are discussed in more detail in the following guide:

SecurityGateway – Settings to Protect Your Mail Server

Of course, no system is 100% fool-proof, which is why user education is so important. Remember – your network and email infrastructure are only as secure as their weakest link. It is the responsibility of all parties involved – administrators and end users, to help ensure a secure messaging and collaboration environment.

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Is spam being sent out from a local machine on your network? Follow these steps to track down a spambot.

Has this happened to you? Let’s say you’re the MDaemon administrator for your company, and you’ve noticed that somewhere, somehow, spam messages are being sent from within your network. Perhaps one of your PCs has been compromised. What do you do? Here are some tips to help you track the issue down.

First, make sure you have the option “Authentication is always required when mail is from local accounts” enabled (Security | Security Settings | SMTP Authentication). Also enable “Credentials used must match those of the return-path address” and “Credentials used must match those of the From header address.” Then, make sure “…unless message is sent to a local account” is unchecked to prevent intra-domain spam (between local domain users).

SMTP Authentication in MDaemeon
Make sure the appropriate boxes are checked to require SMTP authentication

Next, find out if the spam messages are coming in from an authenticated session. To do this, locate one of the spam messages & open it up in Notepad to view its headers (or you can open it in Queue & Statistics Manager). Does the message have an X-Authenticated-Sender header? It will look something like this:

X-Authenticated-Sender: SpammerUser@example.com

If this header is present, then that is the user who authenticated to send the message. The first thing you should do in this case is to change the account’s password via the Accounts menu in MDaemon. Even if the spamming is going through the user’s mail client, until you give the user the new password and they update their mail client the authentication credentials will be rejected and the spamming will be temporarily stopped.

In newer versions of MDaemon, we’ve added Account Hijack Detection, which will automatically disable an account if it sends a specified number of outbound messages via an authenticated session in a given period of time. We recommend enabling this feature. In MDaemon, it’s located under Security | Security Settings | Screening | Hijack Detection.

Account Hijack Detection
Account Hijack Detection

The next step is to look at the Received headers. Find the one where the message was received by your server. Here is an example of what this header would look like:

Received from computer1 (computer1@example.com (192.198.1.121) by example.com (MDaemon PRO v17) with ESMTP id md50000000001.msg for <UserWhoWasSpammed@example.com >, Fri, 13 Sep 2016 21:00:00 -0800

Find the connecting IP (192.198.1.121) in the above example. This is the machine that is sending out spam. Locate that machine to deal directly with the spambot on that machine.

If the message wasn’t authenticated or wasn’t sent from your local network, locate the Message-ID header and copy that value.

Message-ID: <123.xyx.someone@example.net>

Then open the MDaemon SMTP-IN log that covers the time when that message was received by MDaemon (based on the timestamp in the received header) and search for that Message-ID in the log (in the 250 response line when the message is accepted):

Thu 2016-09-12 20:00:00: –> 250 Ok, message saved <Message-ID: <123.xyx.someone@example.net>>

Look at the rest of transaction and see why the message was accepted/not rejected – spam score, DNSBLs, etc.

Also, if your external domain is listed in the Trusted Hosts list (Security | Security Settings | Trusted Hosts), try removing it from this list.

Check back often for more tips & tricks!

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New Feature: Email Health Check for Optimal Security Settings

Our latest version of MDaemon, MDaemon 17, comes packed with lots of new features for administrators and end users, including new password security, support for Let’sEncrypt, DropBox integration, message scheduling, and much more. Today, I’d like to demonstrate MDaemon’s new Health Check utility. With this handy new tool, administrators no longer have to go through each feature to verify that it’s configured for optimal security. This new tool will analyze all security-related settings, display each setting’s current value, its recommended value, and where that feature is located in the MDaemon interface. This tool offers administrators the flexibility to change all settings to their recommended value at the same time, or to select and change individual settings. In this tutorial video, I demonstrate how to use the new Health Check utility.

Need additional help? More guidance on the MDaemon Health Check utility can be found in this knowledge base article.

If you haven’t yet upgraded to MDaemon 17, check out the release notes and our previous blog post to see what you’re missing!

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10 Ways to Reduce Spam in Your Inbox

SpamBefore the invention of email, mail that arrived in your physical mailbox often contained pamphlets, sales brochures, credit card offers, and product catalogs. Much of this waste was thrown away and ended up in a landfill somewhere. Today, the equivalent and often more annoying nuisance is spam. Spam comes in many forms. Some examples include dubious product claims, miracle supplements, conspiracy theories, and offers of easy money.

Spam statistics are staggering. More than 100 billion spam messages are sent every day, representing around 85 percent of global email traffic.

So what can be done about this spam epidemic? There are numerous spam fighting tools in MDaemon and other mail servers, but server-side tools are only half of the spam-fighting equation. The other half is user education. With this in mind, here are 10 things users can do to reduce the amount of spam they receive.

  1. Unsubscribe – How often have you been asked by a store clerk for your email address or placed an order online? In either of these situations, chances are you may have ended up on a company’s mailing list. When you receive email from these companies, take the time to open the message and click on the Unsubscribe link. But first, make sure the email is in fact coming from a reputable company. If you’re not completely sure where the email came from, then report the message as spam instead of unsubscribing.
  2. Create a secondary email account – While we’re on the topic of retailers having your email address, you might also consider having a second email address that’s used solely for the purpose of store records or placing orders. This allows you to keep solicitations from these vendors out of your primary inbox.
  3. Keep your email address private – If your email address is visible on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, then it’s also visible to spammers. Spammers have tools that can easily detect visible email addresses and add them to their mailing lists. This is why it’s often recommended that, if you MUST use your email address on one of these sites, you mask it by changing its format. For example, type out “at” instead of using the “@” symbol.
  4. Before you join a list, make sure the list owner cannot sell your email address – If the list you’re joining has a privacy policy, read it thoroughly and make sure your information cannot be sold to a third party.
  5. Don’t reply to ANY spam or unsolicited marketing messages – Most spam messages use forged sender (return-path) addresses, so replying to a spam message will almost never result in the spammer getting your message. Replying to legitimate marketing messages tells the sender that your email address is valid, and thus, they may continue to send you spam.
  6. Never click on links – Often, when you click on a link in a spam email, it specifically identifies you to the spammer as having received the message. Not only can clicking links in spam messages identify you to the spammer; you can also end up getting infected with malware.
  7. Block Images – Even if you don’t click any links, an image opening in your email can alert spammers to a valid address. Spammers often try to be stealthy by inserting images that are only one pixel wide. If your mail client is configured to automatically open images, spammers can be alerted that your email address is valid. We recommend configuring your email client to automatically block images to reduce spam. You can always choose to view images in specific emails if you are sure the sender and content are legitimate.
  8. Make your email address unique – Spammers often use common names to try to guess email addresses. If your email address is unique, it makes it harder for spammers to guess your email address.
  9. Don’t fall for scams – If you receive an anonymous email from someone who appears to be in dire need, who promises you large sums of money for your small up-front investment, you may be witnessing the familiar Nigerian email scam, or one of many other variants. What are the odds that someone you’ve never met, who’s in a desperate situation, would contact you for help? Don’t fall for this scam.
  10. Never forward email from someone you don’t know – I often see email messages with some type of public service announcement, petition, or other bit of advice, and often, there’s a request to forward the message to your friends. Don’t fall for this, as it’s a prime opportunity for spammers to harvest email addresses.

Blocking junk email is not just the job of the mail server administrator. A well-informed email user can mean the difference between spam that is manageable and spam that is out of control. These ten tips will help you reduce spam, and help prevent you from becoming a victim to phishing or malware.

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Get Aggressive at Fighting Spam by Re-training the Bayesian Learning Process in MDaemon

Fight spam with Bayesian Learning in MDaemon

In certain situations, it may be necessary to retrain your Bayesian Learning database. This can be necessary when spam messages are inadvertently placed in the Bayes non-spam folder, or when non-spam messages are placed in the Bayes spam folder.

To reset your Bayesian Learning and start training it again from scratch, you can perform the following steps:

1. Stop the MDaemon service.
2. Verify that the MDaemon executables (MDaemon.exe, CFEngine.exe, MDSpamD.exe, WorldClient.exe) have all exited memory using Windows task manager.
3. Rename the folder “/MDaemon/SpamAssassin/Bayes/” to”/MDaemon/SpamAssassin/Bayes.old/”
4. Re-launch MDaemon.
5. Go to Security | Spam Filter | Bayesian Classification, then click on the Learn button.

At this point, MDaemon recognizes that the Bayes folder isn’t there when the learn process is triggered, so it builds a new Bayes folder.

You will then need to feed Bayesian learning at least 200 spam and 200 non-spam messages (although the more the better) to start the Bayesian learning process again. Here is a knowledge base article on training the Bayesian learning process in MDaemon.

The Bayesian learning engine won’t process new messages until the administrator has taught it 200 spam and 200 non-spam messages. So even if an administrator were to manually press the Learn button OR have MDaemon learn automatically at midnight, the Bayesian engine  wouldn’t apply itself to new messages even though the new folder is created.

Once MDaemon recognizes that Bayesian learning has learned more than 200 spam and 200 non-spam messages, it will start applying what it has learned to new messages.

You can run a script to determine how many messages the Bayesian filter has learned from. This will come in handy for administrators who need to know how many more messages to feed the Bayesian filter. This process is explained in this knowledge base article.

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Beware of New Amazon.com Phishing Scam

Scam AlertThe holidays are upon us, and with all of the giving and sharing come scams aimed at exploiting human nature and stealing our personal information, such as names, addresses and credit card numbers. This year, the scammers are at it again, with a phishing scam designed to look like an email from Amazon.com claiming that there is a problem processing your order. The scam asks you to click on a link to verify your personal information. A good example of this scam email is described on the AARP blog.

As a reminder, here are a few tips to avoid falling victim to phishing scams.

  • Never click on unfamiliar or suspicious links. If a link claims to refer to a familiar website, then manually enter the web address in the address bar.
  • Hover your mouse over images & links to review the URL they refer to.
  • Beware of “Unsubscribe” links in phishing emails. When clicked, these links can let the spammer know that your address is valid, which often leads to more spam.
  • Never reply to spam or unsolicited messages.

For more tips on how to avoid these & other scams, click here to review our post on protecting your email privacy, and stay safe this holiday season!

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Teach SecurityGateway to Recognize Spam

Recently, I wrote a post about teaching your MDaemon Inbox to recognize spam using the Bayesian learning feature. This feature helps to train the spam filter to be more accurate over time by feeding it samples of spam and non-spam messages. SecurityGateway also includes Bayesian learning features (in addition to many other security features designed to keep spam, viruses, malware and phishing attacks from hitting your mail server). Today, I’ll be explaining how to use these features to teach SecurityGateway how to get better at recognizing spam (false negatives – spam messages that were not filtered out) and non-spam (false positives – legitimate messages that were marked as spam).

Administrator Instructions

Administrators must first enable and configure Bayesian learning in SecurityGateway before users will be able to use it. Follow these steps to enable and configure Bayesian learning.

  1. Click on the Security tab, and then click on Heuristics & Bayesian under the Anti-Spam section.
  2. Make sure the first box, “Use heuristic rules and Bayesian classification to analyze messages” is checked. This setting basically turns the spam filter on and is enabled by default.
  3. Under “Location (all domains),” click on the link to configure SGSpamD. You can optionally select a domain in the drop-down menu at the top to configure these settings for a specific domain.

    Enable SGSpamD
    Enable SGSpamD
  4. Under the “Bayesian Classification” section, check the first box to enable Bayesian classification.

    Enable Bayesian Classification
    Enable Bayesian Classification
  5. By default, 200 samples of spam and 200 samples of non-spam are needed before Bayesian learning can take place. You can adjust this number in the blanks provided, but in most cases, this will not be necessary.
  6. By default, Bayesian learning takes place at midnight each night. You can select the second option under the “Bayesian Learning” section if you’d like to schedule Bayesian learning more frequently, at regular intervals. This is useful if you have a larger number of messages to learn from. You can also select the third option if you do not want Bayesian learning to run automatically based on a schedule. When this option is selected, you can use the link at the bottom of the Bayesian Learning section to perform Bayesian learning as needed.

    Bayes Schedule
    Bayes Schedule
  7. SecurityGateway needs to know where to find messages to be fed to the Bayesian learning engine. By default, messages are  placed inside the C:/Program Files/Alt-N technologies/SecurityGateway/BayesSpam and BayesHam directories. You can optionally use a different path mapped to a different drive to improve performance.

    Known Spam Directory
    Known Spam Directory
  8. In the following two blanks, enter the Spam and Non-Spam forwarding addresses. The default addresses are spamlearn and hamlearn, so if your domain is example.com, users can forward spam messages (as an attachment) to spamlearn@example.com to feed these messages to the Bayesian learning engine. This procedure is explained in greater detail later when we discuss how end users can submit spam and non-spam messages to the Bayesian learning engine.

    Spam Forwarding Addresses
    Spam Forwarding Addresses
  9. Most spam messages are relatively small, thus, you can place a size limit on messages to learn from by checking the box “Don’t learn from messages larger than” and entering a value (in bytes) in the blank blow. Placing a size limit on messages to learn from helps improve the performance of the Bayesian learning engine.

    Bayes Size Limit
    Bayes Size Limit
  10. You can automate the Bayesian learning process by enabling Automatic Bayesian Learning. By default, messages that score less than 0.1 are considered to be legitimate and only messages that score a 12.0 or above are considered to be spam for purposes of automatic Bayesian learning. Before enabling automatic Bayesian learning, I would recommend reviewing your message logs for false negatives and false positives and use their spam scores as guidelines for populating the spam and non-spam scoring thresholds. You can also optionally check the boxes to only learn non-spam messages from domain mail servers and authenticated sessions, and only learn spam from inbound messages.

    Bayes Automatic Learning
    Bayes Automatic Learning
  11. Before I explain the next setting, I want to explain the concept of “tokens.” When the Bayesian learning feature “learns” from a message, it takes snippets of information from the message, such as words or phrases, and uses this information to create tokens. These tokens are accumulated and when a new message is scanned by Bayesian learning, its contents are compared to these tokens to look for similarities. Under the Bayesian Database section, check the box to enable Bayesian automatic token expiration. This helps to limit the token database to a manageable size, expiring old tokens and replacing them with new ones when the maximum number of Bayesian database tokens (specified in the blank below) has been reached. When this number of tokens is reached, the Bayesian system removes the oldest, reducing the number to 75% of this value or 100,000 tokens, whichever is higher. 150,000 tokens make up about 8MB of data.
  12. Click Save and Close to save your changes.

End User Instructions

Now that SecurityGateway has been configured properly on the server, users can start feeding samples of spam and non-spam to the Bayesian learning engine.

There are two methods users can use to submit samples of spam and non-spam to the Bayesian learning engine in SecurityGateway. The first (and easier) way is to use the thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons in the SecurityGateway interface. The second way is by forwarding spam and non-spam messages (as attachments) to designated email addresses.

To mark messages as spam or non-spam using the SecurityGateway interface, follow these steps:

  1. Log into SecurityGateway.
  2. Click on My Message Log. This brings up a list of all of your inbound and outbound messages.
  3. Click on the message you wish to mark as spam or non-spam, and then click on the Thumbs-up button to mark the message as non-spam, or the thumbs-down button to mark the message as spam.
    Mark Message as Spam
    Mark Message as Spam

    You will receive confirmation that the message was marked as spam.

    Marked as Spam Confirmation
    Marked as Spam Confirmation

To feed messages to the Bayesian learning engine by forwarding them as attachments, simply attach the message to an email addressed to the designated hamlearn@ or spamlearn@ address for your domain (example: spamlearn@example.com). Note: SMTP authentication must be used.

If you are using WorldClient, you can right-click on the message and select “Forward as Attachment.” Then, populate the To: field with the spamlearn@ or hamlearn@ address and simply send the message.

Forward as Attachment
Forward as Attachment

When used properly, Bayesian Learning is a powerful tool for reducing spam and ensuring legitimate messages are not blocked by the spam filter. More information can be found in this knowledge base article.

Don’t let spam ruin your day. These tips can help you keep the bad stuff out of your Inbox so you can focus on your business!

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Stop Spam & Malware with SecurityGateway – New SlideShare Presentation

Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have anti-spam and anti-virus protection on our email servers and gateways? Users would be so flooded with spam, phishing attempts and malware that they’d have to scroll through many pages of email messages before finding a message that’s legitimate. A good anti-spam/anti-virus mail server or gateway will filter out the vast majority of this nonsense so that the end user can focus on his job.

Most mail servers have some form of built-in spam protection, however, administrators are often faced with these challenges

  • Not enough security features on the mail server to catch many of today’s evolving threats
  • The need for an extra layer of defense between the mail server and the internet
  • Lack of reporting features, which can be used to assess the effectiveness of your email security solution
  • Cumbersome configuration & confusing settings

SecurityGateway was created to address these issues. Many small-to-medium businesses trust  SecurityGateway to protect their inbound and outbound email from spam, phishing attempts, and malware.

The following is a brief presentation that describes SecurityGateway’s features.

 

Would you like to learn more about SecurityGateway? Click here to visit the SecurityGateway overview page, or click here to download your free trial.

 

 

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New MDaemon Feature Helps Detect Spambots

Ever wonder why so much spam exists today? By some estimates, more than 100 billion spam messages are sent every day. This represents around 85 percent of global daily email traffic. Some of the most common types of spam messages include financial scams, phishing attempts, ransomware, and botnet malware. In this article, we focus primarily on botnets.

Spam is big business. The barriers to entry are low and the payoffs are high. If a spammer sends out 50,000 spam messages, but only a handful of users click on a link in one of these messages, the spammer’s efforts will likely have paid off.

A single spammer may not have the resources to send out a large-scale spam attack, however, a spammer’s job is made much easier by the use of botnets – networks of hundreds or even thousands of malware-infected computers (known as spambots) that can be remotely controlled over the internet.  Similar to legitimate cloud services such as Amazon’s AWS, a botnet-for-hire provides individuals with ample cloud-based resources to carry out large-scale spam campaigns with very little effort.

According to Spamhaus, the top five countries with the most spambots are India, Vietnam, China, Iran, and Brazil. As of May 23, 2016, India had close to 2 million spambots!

The botnet-for-hire industry is a growing industry that makes it easy for anyone to send out thousands of spam messages using the botnet as the attack vector.

In addition to sending out spam, botnets can be used to launch DDoS attacks by flooding a company with thousands of connections over a short period of time – in an effort to try to shut down a company’s network or to damage its reputation.

User education is likely the most important factor in preventing a computer from becoming a spambot. The following are a few guidelines that every email user should know by now.

  • Never open an email from an unknown source.
  • Never open an attachment from an unknown source.
  • Even if the sender appears to be someone you know, always verify – because spammers often forge the sender’s address.
  • Use anti-virus software on your local computer.
  • Learn how to recognize phishing
    • Messages that contain threats to shut your account down
    • Requests for personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers
    • Words like “Urgent” – portraying a false sense of urgency
    • Forged email addresses
    • Poor writing or bad grammar
  • Don’t give your email address to sites you don’t trust.
  • Don’t post your email address to public websites or forums.
  • Understand that reputable businesses will never ask for personal information via email.

For more of these guidelines, see our blog posts – Email Safety Tips for End Users and Ransomware and Banking Trojans are Big Business.

Spambot Detection in MDaemon

The information provided above applies primarily to end users, but what actions can be taken by the mail server administrator to detect and prevent spambot activity? While MDaemon has many spam-fighting features, MDaemon 16 includes tools to detect spambot activity and block it from further communication with your server. This new feature is called Spambot Detection. Spambot Detection tracks the IP addresses that every return-path value (sender) uses over a period of time. If the same return-path is used by multiple IP addresses (more than can be expected from users switching between their computers and mobile devices) in a given timeframe, then it’s possible that this activity is being generated by a spambot. Of course, it’s also possible that this activity is completely legitimate. However, in some cases, tests have shown that this can be an effective tool at detecting a distributed spambot network as long as the same return-path is used in the spam messages. If a spambot is detected the connection is dropped and the return-path value is optionally blacklisted for a designated period of time.  You can also optionally blacklist all known spambot IPs for a designated period of time.

As with most MDaemon security features, various settings allow you to bypass Spambot Detection for mail from trusted sources. You can exempt specific IPs, senders, and recipients from Spambot Detection using the White list feature, and exempt connections from authenticated sessions or trusted IPs. Click on the Advanced buttons to view a list of return-paths or IPs that are currently blocked. If a return-path or IP is blocked by mistake, you can easily remove it from the list.

We demonstrate how to configure Spambot Detection in this tutorial video.

Spammers are always coming up with new ways to spam users. That’s why user education and a properly configured mail server are equally important in the war against spam.

Spambot Detection is one more tool in MDaemon’s arsenal of anti-spam and security features. When these features are enabled, MDaemon can help protect your users and your business from spam, phishing attempts, and malware. For more information on protecting your MDaemon server, check out our knowledge base article on recommended MDaemon security settings.

If you’re not yet an MDaemon user, and would like to take advantage of its robust security and anti-spam features, click here to download your free trial!

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