Email security


Traditionally, our email security reviews at SC Magazine were separated into two specific categories: email security and email content management. In previous reviews, email security products focused mostly on encryption and digital signatures. These products often included gateway and message-based encryption and/or digital signatures to ensure confidentiality and message integrity. The other category, content management, usually focused on protecting email content from both an outbound and inbound perspective through a series of anti-virus, anti-spam and content filtering engines. These products focused more on threat management and ensuring malware, phishing and data leakage issues were kept in check. For this particular review, we've noted convergence in many products (not just email security) so this is our first attempt at combining both domains of message protection into one group review.

Readers who are looking to investigate possible email security solutions will have to make decisions regarding their existing infrastructure and future architecture to help decide which features are most important to their organization. Even though most of our products in this review cover both security and content management domains, there are granular differences associated with almost all of them. In this review, we have one pure-play email security solution that deals only with encryption and digital signatures: PGP's Universal Gateway. Other vendors provide mostly content management features, but do provide some native gateway-level encryption via SMTP over TLS. Those and other solutions also integrate into additional modules, products or add-ons, which help to expand the protection mechanisms.

In this issue

For this combined group review, we attempted to focus on the products and their respective enabled features there were provided to our lab. We also attempted to focus mostly on features which were included out-of-the-box or with the licensing options that were enabled at the time of the review. This can be confusing at times and we encourage readers to perform additional research on each vendor product. Since our review space is limited and many products contain numerous options and features, it's virtually impossible to list every strong point of every vendor submission in the space which we're allotted. Although this is a thinly veiled apology for the inability to enumerate every detail of every product, it's also a great sign for potential buyers considering there are fantastic solutions included in this group that can meet almost every email security requirement in one overall package. This may be evident in our review since many products are very strong buys and exceeded our review standards for almost every category.

It's also worth noting that almost every vendor submission provided strong anti-spam, anti-virus, content analysis, administration capabilities, encryption and policy management features. Most of the products reviewed were hardware appliances that make life tremendously easy for most administrators. Web-based centralized administration, high availability, auditing, monitoring and quality reporting is very common among these products. Most products also performed well at securing information at the protocol layer (SMTP, sender, IP, domain and reputation protection), as well as the content layer (message filtering, anti-malware, etc.) through a myriad of components and services. Since the ability to manage email threats is ever-expanding, many vendors offer cloud-based subscription services for their products. These services include real-time URL scanning, sender domain checking (to help prevent phishing), RBL (real-time blackhole lists), domain and sender trust frameworks, backscatter detection, white/black/grey listing and many other options. Buyers should also scrutinize the encryption implementations, as well since some rely tools on traditional asymmetric or symmetric methods while others use secure web portals to exchange data with recipients. All in all, there is a tremendous amount of information to digest for any given product and we encourage readers to visit vendor websites to learn more. 

How we tested

Almost every product submitted for this group was contained within a hardware appliance device, and many vendors also offered a virtual appliance option. All of the products in this group act as a gateway or proxy to your existing email infrastructure, and help support downstream SMTP architectures. Buyers should double-check product versions to ensure the processing power and hard drive space provide adequate capacity planning depending on the role of the device. One product was shipped as a software solution and was installed in our virtual environment using Windows 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server.

At the risk of sounding redundant, we must emphasize that most of the products submitted in this group have an excellent number of features, strong administrative capabilities and can undoubtedly perform well in many environments. The decision-making process will come down to cost, reputation of the vendor organization and which features are included natively and which need to be integrated into additional modules, licenses, etc. Additionally, we found some of the capabilities to be ironic in that many of the vendors' products licensed technology or engines from each other. As you read the reviews, you'll notice many five star awards across the board. The decision to choose the Best Buy or Recommended product was difficult considering they were all very strong submissions. While this was a difficult task for the reviewer, it's a good problem to have for the security industry as whole.

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