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IT security directors should design their e-mail filtering architecture and business policies around legal, risk-avoidance and infrastructure best practices. Particularly during the past two years, the onerous task of filtering e-mail messages has grown to become a business and operational necessity — largely because of the influx of spam, as well as regulations and legislation that mandate the retention of e-communications such as e-mail and, increasingly, instant messages. Coupled with the traditional reasons for filtering — malicious code attached to or embedded within the message, and inappropriate or sensitive message content — filtering technologies and the market are undergoing radical change. This makes purchasing and implementation decisions difficult. Best practices for effective e-mail filtering can ease the decision-making process. How can I justify the expense of e-mail filtering technologies? Unlike other technology investments, e-mail filtering investments will rarely require business justification. Senior management will find the budget to rid themselves and the enterprise of spam. Regulated-industry enterprises will deploy technologies to ensure compliance with rulings. Enterprises that have paid millions of dollars — and have had their corporate credibility challenged — because of class-action civil lawsuits (in which an electronic message was the “smoking gun”) will implement whatever they must to protect themselves. In the case of e-mail, filtering is generally acknowledged as baseline security. The cost of doing nothing is self-evident. Which e-mail filtering technologies should I implement? The term “e-mail filtering” can refer to a single-purpose application or to a group of applications, each employing respective technologies. Cleansing or “hygiene” technologies filter for malicious code (commonly viruses), spam, and harmful text or graphical content. E-mail relay, denial-of-service protection and some level of message encryption, although not filtering technologies, often are bundled with the filtering applications. The two distinct evolving categories of e-mail filtering technologies are:

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