E-mail Filtering for Exchange: SurfControl E-Mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 Review

Product: SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003

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As already mentioned, SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 is a very comprehensive product, so comprehensive that the SurfControl support staff provides active tech support during installation and configuration to potential customers and customers who have already decided to invest in it. I think this is a really good idea as it gives the customers a chance to better identify the product features that best benefit their filtering needs.


SurfControl E-mail Filter offers advanced filtering technology for the corporate e-mail environment, helping you to manage both internal and external e-mail usage in the workplace. SurfControl E-mail Filter provides multi-layered protection against escalating threats of spam, phishing attacks, spyware, viruses, and confidential data loss.


The SurfControl E-mail product exists in two different versions:

  • SurfControl E-mail Filter v5 for SMTP
  • SurfControl E-mail Filter v4.7 for Exchange 2000/2003

Some of you might know SurfControl from their Web filter which is a very popular multi-layer protection against Internet threats of pornography, spyware, phishing attacks, viruses, and malicious downloads, etc.

Main Features

In Table 1 below I have listed what should be considered the main features of SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003:

Features Description
Anti-Spam Agent Slam the brakes on spam. The Anti-Spam Agent protects your system against text-based spam and other unwanted files such as images, movies and screensavers. The Anti-Spam Agent’s unique digital fingerprint filtering ensures near 100% efficiency.
Anti-Virus Agent SurfControl E-mail Filter, powered by McAfee is a gateway virus scanner that protects your e-mail server and network from e-mail borne viruses. It works by checking messages against the current virus signature database and dealing with infected messages according to your policy.
Virtual Image Agent The Virtual Image Agent uses intelligent scanning technology to filter out inappropriate adult images from your e-mail network. You can alter the sensitivity of the Virtual Image Agent to suit the needs of your organization.
Virtual Learning Agent The Virtual Learning Agent is a unique tool that can be trained to understand and recognize specific types of content that you want to filter. Using the VLA with SurfControl E-mail Filter gives you the most comprehensive protection against loss of business critical information through accidental or malicious leakage.
Internal message filtering SurfControl E-mail Filter for Microsoft Exchange supports TNEF, enabling comprehensive filtering of internal e-mail.
HTML spam detection The HTML Parser extracts plain text and URLs from HTML messages and attachments to improve Spam detection.
Automated queue management Automatically discard, release or move queued messages at specified times or after a specified time delay.
LexiMatch LexiMatch uses advanced Boolean language analysis for accurate content filtering that’s easy to deploy.
Content Dictionaries SurfControl E-mail Filter is installed with extensive, customizable dictionaries, giving you high-quality content filtering straight out of the box.

Table 1: List of SurfControl E-mail Filter Main Features


It should come as no surprise the SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 is to be installed directly on your Exchange Server(s) which is what most smaller organizations do, as they often don’t have the budget to invest in dedicated SMTP gateways placed in their perimeter network (see Figure 1 below for this topology).

Figure 1: Topology for SurfControl E-mail Filter installed directly on the Exchange Server

If you’re a midsized to large organization you should consider the SurfControl E-mail Filter for SMTP product instead, as this is installed on your SMTP Gateway rather than on the Exchange Server itself.

In Table 2 below you find the System requirements for SurfControl E-mail filter for exchange 2000/2003.

Operating System Windows 2000 Advanced Server with SP3 or higher
Windows 2000 Server with SP3 or higher
Windows 2003 Server Standard or Enterprise
Applications Microsoft Exchange 2000 with SP3 or 2003
Existing Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or MSDE 2000 (provided)
Processor Pentium III Processor 600MHz or higher
Memory 512MB minimum RAM; 1024MB RAM strongly recommended.
Disk space 1GB Disk space
Other Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) 2.5 with Service Pack 1; TCP/IP installed and configured with Dedicated Internet Connection; Internal or External DNS configured; E-mail system with SMTP gateway or MTA installed; Browser Access – Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, or Netscape Communicator 4.75 or higher
IIS must be installed and enabled.
Display Screen resolution 800 x 600 or higher

Table 2: SurfControl E-mail Filter For Exchange 2000/2003 System Requirements

All in all SurfControl E-mail Filter for 2000/2003 is very painless to install, like many other products on the market today, you’re guided through the installation via a GUI friendly installation wizard. But bear in mind that when launching the installation wizard you can select between three different options (listed in Table 3).

E-mail Filter Server (Complete installation) The complete installation will install both the E-mail Receive and the Filtering engine.
Administration Client If you already installed the E-mail Filter Server you can select to install the Administration Client on a different computer, in order to administrate SurfControl E-mail filter for Exchange 2000/2003 from there.
E-mail audit E-mail Audit is an e-mail management that allows you to inspect users’ mailboxes for breaches of your Acceptable Use Policy without interrupting the flow of live e-mails through your system.

Table 3: SurfControl E-mail Filter for 2000/2003 Installation Options

SurfControl E-mail Filter uses a relational database (Microsoft SQL 2000 or MSDE 2000) to store rules, system configuration and dictionaries. You can either use a local or remote SQL server; if you don’t run a local installation the SurfControl E-mail Filter installation wizard asks whether you want to install MSDE 2000 – Service Pack 3 (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 2: SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 Database Setup

For complete installation steps see the SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 Installation guide.

When the E-mail Filter Server has been installed it can be accessed via Start | All Programs | SurfControl E-mail Filter as can be seen in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 Program Folder

As you might have noticed SurfControl E-mail Filter has also added an icon to the Systray (see Figure 4), from here you can stop/start the different services and launch the different consoles.

Figure 4: Accessing SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 via icon in Systray

SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 also adds a property tab under Properties of your Exchange Server object in the Exchange System Manager (ESM) console, see Figure 5 below.

Figure 5: SurfControl E-mail Filter tab under the Server object in the ESM

The Monitor

The monitor screen (see Figure 6) is a view of the monitored traffic logged to the SurfControl database. It provides an overview of traffic and allows administrators to explore user activity without the need to run a report. As soon as you have installed SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 and your monitored users start to send e-mail, you will be able to see the traffic here. All e-mail messages will be shown in blue in the right pane, and all e-mail messages which trigger a rule will display in red. This makes it easy to see which e-mail messages trigger a rule and which don’t.

It’s worth noting that SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 in addition to the E-mail Monitor also has comprehensive reporting capabilities. These can be used for management reports, as a starting point for analyzing e-mail activity to help construct an acceptable Use Policy and as well as a source of information to modify an existing Acceptable Use Policy. The Reports can be run both from the server and any web browser and can be scheduled to run automatically and be delivered to your In Box when you want them.

Figure 6: SurfControl E-mail Filter Monitor Console

The Message Administrator

SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 can redirect e-mails to queues, where they are held for later analysis. It also records all System, Traffic and Rules activity in respective logs. You can review these queues and logs using the Message Administrator (see Figure 7). The Message Administrator toolbar enables you to perform tasks upon messages in queues. Notice the toolbar is greyed out in Figure 7 as no e-mail message has been selected.Also, the End User Spam Management feature lets you extend end user review of isolated spam mail if so desired.

Figure 7: SurfControl E-mail Filter Message Administrator

The Rules Administrator

As you might already have guessed the SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 Rules Administrator (see Figure 8) is used to configure policy rules. The Rules Administrator is at the core of using SurfControl E-mail Filter to implement your organization’s E-mail Acceptable Use Policy. Use the Rules Administrator to set up a wide range of rules that define and govern how your organization handles e-mail. SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 comes configured with a series of pre-defined rules; you can choose to customize these and/or to define rules of your own from scratch. You create, edit and delete these rules by using the Rules Administrator toolbar.

When a new e-mail arrives at the SurfControl E-mail Filter’s Receiver, it gets passed to the Rules Service. The rules that you enable within the Rules Administrator will determine how the Rules Service processes the e-mail. There are numerous combinations of rules that you can configure within the Rules Administrator, but all rules are defined by the use and interrelation of Rule Objects.

Figure 8: SurfControl E-mail Filter Rules Administrator

The Scheduler

In order to release the Administrator from routine administrative tasks SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 has a scheduling feature (see Figure 9), which enables you to schedule one or more events so they occur automatically on a given data and time. The scheduling feature can for example be used to update the Anti-Spam Agent and the Anti-Virus Agent databases or perform other database tasks on a regular basis.

Figure 9: SurfControl E-mail Filter Scheduler

The Virtual Learning Agent (VLA)

The Virtual Learning Agent (VLA) as can be seen in Figure 10 introduces a new concept to e-mail filtering software: neural networking architecture.

The VLA uses neural networking technology with trained strings, allowing your proprietary messages to be learnt by identifying the word and phrase patterns of specific genres of messages. Words can have more than one meaning, and so the VLA analyzes messages for the relationship between words and phrases, rather than simply those words in isolation. The VLA also categorizes messages according to the difference in the language used in one genre of message relative to another. Once you have completed the training of the network, the VLA will analyze subsequent messages for the word patterns that you have trained it in. According to these analysis results the VLA will positively trigger a rule condition if there is a greater likelihood that the message subject matter does belong to one of the training categories than that it does not.

Figure 10: SurfControl E-mail Filter Virtual Learning Agent (VLA)


As I mentioned in the beginning of the review SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2000/2003 is very comprehensive, it’s an advanced, accurate, and scalable e-mail content filtering product, and to be honest we have in this review only touched the surface of the product (but hopefully enough to whet your appetite).

If you’re considering replacing your existing anti-spam, anti-virus and confidential data protection solution or perhaps are thinking about implementing one, I strongly advise you to give SurfControl E-mail Filter a test drive in your lab – you won’t regret it.

Relevant Links

SurfControl E-mail Filter For Exchange 2000/2003:

Online Product Demos in Macromedia Flash format for SurfControl Products:

Free SurfControl E-mail Filter For Exchange 2000/2003 Trial Version:

MSExchange.org Rating 5/5

For more information about SurfControl E-mail Filter For Exchange 2000/2003 click here.


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